The first argument bearing on the truth or falsehood of a claimant to divine leadership is based on the need of the hour. A well- established divine law tells us that an act of God is neither out of place nor out of time. A new idea does not descend from God unless the world is in need of it. On the other hand, when the need for an idea has become clear, it can be withheld no longer. The law holds good in the physical world. There is no physical need that God has left unprovided for. The smallest need is included in the divine design. What is true of the physical needs of man must also be true of his spiritual needs. It would be against the beneficence and bounty of God were it not so. It is inconceivable that He should provide for the body of man but not for his spirit. The body is mortal. Its needs are short-lived. Its function and purpose are limited. In contrast the spirit is destined for eternal life. The aspirations of the spirit are without limit. The ends which the spirit seeks and the means by which it seeks them can be infinite.
Guidance of man, the special concern of God
If one ponders over the attributes of God ill the light of the Holy Quran, one cannot think for a moment that when the spiritual condition of mankind cries for a spiritual reformer nothing should be done by God for the raising of such a reformer. If this were so, there would be no meaning in human life; and yet God teaches in the Holy Quran that the heavens and the earth and whatever is in them have not been created in sport, have not been made except with truth:
‘And We have not made the heavens and the earth and what is between them in sport. We did not make them except with truth, but most people know not.’1
According to the Holy Quran, the heavens and the earth, with all they contain, have been created as part of a grand purpose. They are not without meaning, nor merely for sport. Their creation is the expression of eternal and everlasting truths. Most people do not know this, however. It follows, therefore, that when mankind begins to suffer from spiritual decline and to need a spiritual reformer, one must be sent by God. This reformer brings men back to the true path and relieves them of inner weakness, and puts them again on the road to truth. Divine attributes therefore forbid the thought that God should do nothing while His creatures need His Help and Guidance. But in addition, we have in the Holy Quran a clear assurance of God’s Help whenever help is needed. God says:
‘And there is nothing of which there are no large treasures with Us. But We send them not down except in a known measure.’2
The sources of all things are in the possession of God. Man receives them as gifts; but they are always carefully measured. These gifts are linked with human needs. They do not descend except when needed, but neither are they kept back when the need has become evident. Similarly:
‘And He gives you of everything that you ask Him for: and if you were to count the blessings of God, you would not be able to number them.’3
God gives man everything he needs. God gives it as a gift. These gifts cannot be counted. What a man asks for is what he really needs. Man asks for many things, but he does not receive everything he asks for. The verse therefore means that the real needs of man, the ends for which man yearns by nature, ends which are relevant to his everlasting life, are guaranteed by God. We have thus a general assurance that human needs, physical or spiritual, cannot go unprovided for. On the subject of guidance, however, we have special assurances from God. When human beings need guidance God must provide it. In fact, the provision of guidance is God’s Own responsibility, a responsibility unshared by anyone else. God says:
‘Verily, it is for Us to guide.’4
The guidance of man is God’s Own duty, a duty He has appointed exclusively to Himself. In the Holy Quran we are told that the provision of divine guidance from time to time is not only desirable but necessary. Had not God made the provision, on the Day of Judgment human beings would have answered Him by saying that because they had no guides from God, He had no right to hold them answerable for their omissions and commissions, no right to punish them. We read in the Holy Quran:
‘And had We destroyed them with a punishment before his coming, they would have said: “Our Lord, wherefore didst Thou not send us a Messenger, that we might have followed Thy Commands before we were humbled and disgraced.”‘5
That is to say, if God had sent His punishment before He sent His Messenger to a people, they would have objected, saying:
‘Why did not God guide us when we needed His guidance? Why did He not send us a Messenger whom we could have accepted and followed before degrading ourselves?’
God does not refute the objection: He accepts it. God’s duty to guide is stressed elsewhere ill the Holy Quran. The Quran goes further. It thinks it unjust to send punishment unless, in time of need a people have had someone to guide them-. Says the Holy Quran
‘O Company of Djinn-l and men! Did not Messengers come to you from among you, who related to you My signs and who warned you of the meeting of this your day? They will say, “We bear witness against ourselves.” And the life of this world deceived them. And they will bear witness against themselves that they were disbelievers. This is because thy Lord would not destroy towns unjustly, while their people were unwarned.’6
Addressing the Djinn and men, God asks if they did not receive His Messengers and if they had Not been warned of the day which now confronts them. In reply the Djinn and the men plead guilty and admit that they did have the warning, but they were misled by the life of the world. They affirm their own disbelief. Thus God warns before He destroys; for destroying without warning would be cruel, unjust, and uncharacteristic of God. These verses of the Holy Quran make it clear that to declare that a people deserve punishment and to treat them as though truth and falsehood had been made plain to them, while they have had no warning whatever, is cruel ill the extreme. In other words, if a people need guidance but receive no guidance from God, and if, in spite of this, God were to punish them for their misguidedness on the Day of Judgment, it would be wanton cruelty. But God is not cruel. It is impossible, therefore, that if a people need His guidance God would not provide it.
Guidance for Muslims specially promised in the Holy Quran
It appears. therefore, that according to Islam when a people need guidance, guidance is provided. It further appears from the Holy Quran that, quite apart from the general law of guidance in time of need, the followers of the Holy Prophet, the Unmat-i- ,Muhammadiyya have had a special promise of divine guidance. This promise is contained ill the verse
‘Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation and most surely We will be its Guardian’7
That is to say, God is both the Revealer and the Protector of the Holy Quran. Now, protection is of two kinds. One protection is external – the protection of the text of the Holy Quran. The other is internal – the protection of its meaning and message. Both kinds of protection are important. Unless both letter and spirit are protected, the ends of protection are not served. If we save the skin, beak and legs of a bird and stuff the skin With straw, we Will have saved the external appearance of the bird, not the bird itself. The bird no longer lives Similarly, if the bird damages its beak or its feet, if it loses its feathers, it cannot be said to be protected. A book that suffers interpolations or extrapolations, a book whose language is dead so that nobody can understand it, a book which no longer serves the purpose for which it was revealed, is a dead book. It is not protected Maybe its words are intact, but its meaning has disappeared-A book is what it means. If the words of a book need protection, it is for the sake of the meaning. Therefore the protection of the Holy Quran is protection of both words and meaning. The different ways ill which God has guarded the text of the Holy Quran and thus fulfilled one part of the promise of protection fill one with wonder. Until the revelation of the Holy Quran, the Arabic language had not been systematized, its grammar, its diction and its idiom had not been fixed. The forms of speech and other linguistic criteria had not been formulated. Even the art of writing was in its infancy. As soon as the Holy Quran was revealed, however, God stimulated the believers to organize these studies. Only to serve the Holy Quran and to protect it from the ravages of time, early Muslims founded many linguistic sciences: the science of Arabic verbs and the Arabic sentence, the science of rhetoric, the science of Tajwid or phonetics, diction and idiom, the science of history, the science of Fiqh or law. These studies advanced in proportion to their importance for the protection of the Holy Quran. The science of Arabic verbs and the Arabic sentence and the science of diction were the most important for the protection of the Holy Quran. Small wonder that these sciences are the most advanced among the Islamic sciences. Even according to European scholars, Arabic grammar and Arabic dictionaries are the most systematized of all grammars and dictionaries. Not only did we have these linguistic sciences; we also had hundreds of thousands of persons who were inspired to commit the Holy Quran to memory. 0n the other hand, the text of the Holy Quran being neither prose nor poetry, but something in between, committing it to memory became very easy. Those who have any experience of memorizing texts of some size know that the text easiest to memorize is the text of the Holy Quran. Not only is the Quran easy to memorize, we also have hundreds of thousands of persons who are eager to memorize it. Besides, every Muslim is obliged to recite portions of the Holy Quran in his daily prayers, so that even ordinary Muslims know parts of the Quran by heart. If, God forbid, all existing copies of the Holy Quran were to disappear, it would not mean the disappearance of the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran would survive ill the memory of Muslims. It seems, therefore, that God has provided fully for the outer protection of the Holy Quran. In view of these provisions it is next to impossible that we should lose any part of the Holy Text. The point, however, is that the guarding of words is not half as important as the guarding of meaning. Words are for meaning, not meaning for words. If God has done so much for the protection of the Words of the Holy Quran, He cannot have done less for the protection of their meaning. Everybody who wishes to exercise his reason and understanding will admit that it is impossible that God should not protect the meaning of the Holy Quran when He has done so much to protect its Words. If God has done anything for the outer protection of the Holy Quran, how much more must He have done for its inner protection. The plain truth is in the verse
‘We Ourself have sent down the Exhortation and We Ourself are its Protector.’8
We have the promise of both outer and inner protection. The inner protection of the Holy Quran at least means that when the followers of the Holy Book deviate very far from the Holy Quran so that the Book becomes reduced to mere words, and the minds and hearts of men become sealed against it, God will restore the original power and influence of the Holy Book, make its meaning plain once again and restore to the dead book all its life and freshness. This promise by God is corroborated by the Traditions of the Holy Prophet – one has reached us through Abu Huraira, according to whom the Holy Prophet once declared:
‘Verily God will continue for ever to raise for this Ummat in the beginning of every century one who Will restore for it its faith. ‘9
This Tradition of the Holy Prophet is an amplification of verse 15:10 of the Holy Quran. It presents more simply the meaning of this grand verse. It is possible that those who take a superficial view of everything and pin their faith on the letter of a text, ignoring its Spirit and meaning, might think that this verse of the Quran promises protection only of its Words. The Holy Prophet, pointing to the coming of spiritual reformers at the turn of every century, has warned Muslims not to forget the real meaning of protection. It is up to them now not to mislead themselves or others.
Protection of the Holy Quran means protection of Islam
The Tradition brings out another point, however. Spiritual reform- ers, promised ill the Tradition, were to rise at the turn of each century. The evils which they would fight – evils arising from a failure to understand the meaning of the Holy Quran – would abound at the beginning of every century. A reformer every hundred years assures a continuity of divine protection. Islam was to be guarded by the advent of a reformer every one hundred years. It was to be served by these reformers or by others who came under their influence. It was to be protected from the danger of misin- terpretation. In short, the teaching of the Holy Quran may be summarized as follows:
Present condition of Muslims
Now, dear reader, may God open your heart to the acceptance of His truth! It is up to you to see whether the present is not the time for the advent of a divine reformer. It appears from the Traditions that the need for such a reformer recurs every hundred years. Every hundred years we are to have a reformer to interpret the Holy Quran and Islam to all and sundry. But now it is not the beginning but the middle of a century. Even if we ignore the Prophet’s Tradition, we cannot ignore facts as we find them. Looking at facts, we arc persuaded at once that a reformer is surely needed at this time. If Muslims and other nations were spiritually as well off as they might be, if they could be trusted to go on without divine guidance, we would not have needed to pay any attention to any claimant to spiritual office. But if the spiritual condition of Muslims demands a reformer and if the enemies of Islam have exceeded all previous records of enmity, we have to admit that the present is the time for a divine reformer to come, to teach Islam again, to fight its enemies, to bring Muslims back to the true Islam, to re-create in their hearts the old love of religion; in short, to demonstrate once again the living power of Islam. On the general condition of Muslims today and the aims of the enemies of Islam, there can be no two opinions. Everyone who has no cause to hide the truth, everyone who can discriminate between good . and evil, will admit that intellectually as well as spiritually, ill belief as well as in action, Muslims have strayed far from Islam. A verse of the Holy Quran says:
‘O my Lord, my people indeed treated this Quran as a thing al abandoned.’10
This is the stark truth about Muslims today. The question no longer is: How many Islamic things have they abandoned. The question rather is: How many have they not abandoned? True it is today-: ‘You may meet Muslims in a graveyard and Islam in its books, Islam today can be found ill the pages of the Holy Quran the books of Hadith, and the books of the Imams, but not in the lives of Muslims. In the first place, Muslims are hardly aware of the teach- ings of Islam. If they seek such awareness, they soon find that access to the meaning and spirit of Islam has become nearly impossible. Everything relating to Islam has become distorted. The conception of God presented in the name of Islam today is so hideous that spon- taneous praise of God has become impossible for an honest person. The conception of angels is similarly ugly in the extreme. Of angels, God taught: ‘They do as they are commanded’ (16:50). Yet inter- preters of Islam present them as critics of God, base creatures in human form, who indulge in the love of bad women. The Prophets of God are described as liars and sinners, so that the love and rever- ence which they should receive as favourites of God cannot be given to them. We are also told that divine revelation is not free from the influence of Satan; the only source of security is thus taken away. The metaphors of wine, and Heaven and Hell, are pushed to ex- tremes, so that what is presented in the name of Islam seems either absurd or mere moonshine. As well as attacking other prophets, the ‘interpreters’ of Islam have not spared even the Holy Prophet. Falsely and indiscrimi- nately they have attributed to him a love affair with Zainab, or secret relations with a slave girl, or other inconceivable things. In this way they have detracted from the matchless beauty of character which is the Holy Prophet’s. ‘The Holy Prophet was a picture of the Holy Quran,’ said Hazrat Ayesha, who knew him best. Yet the commentators have a different picture to paint. A theory of abrogation has been invented, and a perfect book like the Holy Quran has been put in doubt. Not being able to understand parts of the Holy Quran, the commentators have condemned them as abrogated. They have done so without author- ity from the Holy Quran or from the Holy Prophet. They forget that by doing this they cast doubt not on parts of the Holy Quran but on the whole of it. Then it is taught that a dead prophet, himself a follower of Moses, will come and rejuvenate Islam in our time, the followers of the Holy Prophet and his example of influence being unable to do so. So much for the beliefs of Muslims. Their practical lives are no less deplorable. About seventy-five out of one hundred do not observe the daily prayers or the annual fasts. Nobody pays Zakat or the obligatory alms. Of those who pay, very few, hardly two per cent, do so willingly. Few of those whose obligation to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca is obvious ever think of it. Those for whom the pilgrimage is not only not obligatory but possibly forbidden go on pilgrimage. They only bring dishonour to Islam. The few who observe the ordinances of Islam do so in such a manner that the purpose for which the ordinances have been prescribed is com- pletely lost. The meaning of the Arabic words used in the daily prayers is hardly known to those outside the Arab countries. Those who say their prayers without understanding them do not say them willingly, but as an unpleasant obligation. The prostrations are carried out With such indecent haste that an observer cannot distinguish between one prostration and another. To pray in one’s own language during pauses between prescribed prayers is branded as Kufr, or unbelief. Fasting, instead of bringing spiritual benefit, has become a cause of divine punishment. The Islamic laws of inheritance are being ignored altogether. The taking of interest, described in the Quran as making war on God, is now an almost universal vice. Thanks to the Ulema, many interpre- tations and many amplifications enable ordinary Muslims today to accept interest on their capital wealth without thinking it a sin; and in spite of this, Muslims remain poor, far behind others in economic prosperity. Moral grace, once the birth-right of all Muslims, now seems as remote as Kufr is from Islam. Time was when a Muslim’s word was received as a promise set down in black and white, and a Muslim’s written promise as unalterable law. But today nothing seems more unreliable than a Muslim’s word, nothing more empty than a Muslim’s undertaking. Loyalty has disappeared. Truth-speaking has become scarce, courage a thing of the past, disloyalty, Iying, dishonesty, cowardice, and foolhardiness having taken their place. The result of this moral deterioration is that the whole world is set against Muslims. Their economic enterprise has ended. Their great name is gone. Science and intellect, once their handmaids and constant companions, seem like strangers to them. Muslim mystics have also degenerated. They have converted religion into irreligion and religious law into lawlessness. Muslim clergy promote disaffection and mutual hostility. They sponsor their own opinions as the teaching of God and His Prophet. They thus strike at the root of Islam and the power of Muslims. Rich Muslims, not so rich compared With the rich of other nations, are yet so proud that associating themselves with religion seems dishonorable to them. As well as participating in religious duties, they have little regard left for them in their hearts. We may find missionaries amongst the rich of European nations, but amongst the Muslim rich it will be difficult to find many possessing even an elementary knowledge of religion. The ruling classes amongst Muslims are corrupt. Exploiting the poor and the ignorant is their daily business. The opportunity to rule is for them not an oppor- tunity to serve, but an opportunity to dominate and dictate. Muslim kings revel ill the pursuit of pleasure. Their ministers plan disloyalty and dishonesty. The Muslim masses are worse than savages. Hundreds of thousands among them cannot even recite the Kalima, and to be able to tell its meaning is completely out of the question. Islam, once the scourge of other religions, is today a carcass, being eaten by worms and vultures. Money and means can be found by Muslims for all their needs but not for the defense and dissemination of Islam. Time can be found for scandal-mongering, for gossip and for the entertainment of friends, but not for learning or teaching the Holy Book. Everybody knows how great was the importance of the daily prayers ill the eyes of the Holy Prophet. Not the habitual defaulter or the habitual absentee, but the absentee only from the early morning and the late evening congregations, was condemned by the Holy Prophet as a hypocrite. Though the embodiment of forgiveness and generosity, he declared:
‘Verily, by God in Whose possession is my life, sometimes when men have congregated for prayer, I wish to have enough dry wood with me, then appoint someone else as Imam and go out myself to set fire to the houses where people have stayed away from the congregation.’11
Today to join congregational prayers is too much trouble. Excepting the two Ids, millions of Muslims cannot find the few minutes needed for the daily prayers. Those who join in the daily prayers do not observe all the rules and proprieties. Often they join in only for show. They omit even the preliminary of ablutions. In one word, Islam today is friendless. Everybody has a friend but not Islam. This condition of Islam is depicted by the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement (on whom be peace). I quote from his Persian verse:
Meet is it if the faithful shed tears of blood Over the plight of Islam and the disappearance of Muslims.
The true faith has suffered a shaking big and dreadful, Unbelief and hatred have made a great noise in the world.
Those without the least virtue themselves Find fault with the greatest of all divine teachers.
He who lives himself ill a cell of vice Is ready to detract from the greatness of the most pious among men.
The most vicious among men aims his arrows at the most innocent, Just is it if, therefore, heaven rains stones on earth.
Islam is being thrown into the dust before your very eyes, You who live in luxury, what defense will avail you before God?
On all sides unbelief is storming like the armies of Yazid, The faith of God all alone is prostrate like Zain-ul-Abidin.
Men of means are lost in the pursuit of private pleasures, Happy and hilarious in the company of sweet-hearts.
Doctors and divines busy day and night in personal quarrels, Ascetics and mediators sit aside ignorant of the needs of faith.
Everyone has gone to care for his own mean interests, faith is alone, So enemies have leapt out of their hidden places to attack.
The time has emboldened every stupid person To use his stupidity to find fault with this established faith.
Millions of fools have left the faith with their bag and baggage, Millions of the ignorant have submitted to charlatans and cheats. cheats.
Not a misfortune which has not befallen Muslims ill their path, Their shame and valour stand not together.
Even if the whole world turns away from the faith of Mustafa, Muslims, much as the embryo in the womb, will not make the slightest movement.
They are drowned the whole time in low thoughts about the world, Their wealth is all squandered on their wives and children.
They adorn gatherings of vice and wickedness, Become centers in circles of sinners.
Friendly and familiar in the tavern, they know not the path to the righteous, Strangers to the faithful, hot companions of worshippers of wine.
Two anxieties about the faith of Ahmad have consumed my life
Abundance of enemies and lack of friends.
O God, rush to our side and rain on us your help, Or remove me from near this blazing fire.
O God, send the light of guidance from the sun of Thy beneficence, And illumine the eyes of those who have strayed away from Thy clearest signs.
As thou hast granted truth and reality to my feelings and passions, I fear not that I will fail or die a failure
The duties which lovers of truth set themselves do not remain undone, The lovers of truth have the Hand of God helping them ill secret.
It seems, therefore, that the general conditions obtaining today are such that we must have not just a reformer but a great reformer from God; one who will put Islam on its feet again, meet un- belief on every front, and subjugate it again with unanswerable arguments the weapons of reason. At the beginning of this century, only one man had come forward With the claim that he had been appointed by God for the defense of Islam, and he was the Fonder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. It behoves all wise and rational men and women to ponder over this claim, not to turn away without giving it sufficient thought. If they turn away, they turn away from a major obligation and they will have to answer for it.
A doubt resolved
May God help you, reader, with His special help! Many at this point will whisper a doubt. They will say that the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be on him) was a perfect prophet. After a perfect prophet we need no reformer or restorer. The Holy Quran is our reformer and the spiritual power of the Holy Quran will restore us to faith and wisdom. This is a beautiful thought. But when examined closely, it is found to be contrary to the teaching of the Holy Quran and Hadith and contrary also to reason and past experience. The thought is contrary to the Holy Quran and Hadith because ill both we have a clear promise of the advent of divine leaders and reformers. If the coming of a Mujaddid (reformer) or a Mamur (divine leader) was derogatory to the Holy Prophet’s perfection, why did God promise the advent of such reformers and leaders after He had made the Holy Prophet, the chief and the best of all prophets and the most perfect of all men? Would God contradict Himself? Would He do and undo a thing Himself? And why did the Holy Prophet predict the coming of reformers and leaders? Do we know more than he did himself? What did his perfection as man and prophet mean? Is it not strange that the Holy Prophet himself should tell us about the coming of reformers and we should think it contrary to his greatness?
The thought is also contrary to reason, because if after the Holy Prophet there were to be no reformers or spiritual leaders, then= the spiritual condition of Muslims should not have suffered the least deterioration. Muslims should have maintained themselves in virtue and purity. But facts are against this. Reason cannot bring itself to think that Muslims should deteriorate spiritually and become worse and worse and that no reformer should come from God to reform them. If Islam is to be left uncapped for like this, it will not prove the Holy Prophet to be the most perfect among men and prophets. It will prove rather that God wishes to end Islam. If reformers and spiritual leaders were to cease, the cessation should have been accompanied by a visible assurance to Muslims against being misled and going astray. Muslims today should have been spiritually as strong and healthy as they were in early Islam, in the time of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. If there is spiritual decay, we must have the means of spiritual regeneration.
Another consideration makes the thought contrary to reason, namely that if the perfection of the Holy Prophet means the cessation of spiritual leaders, who represent the Holy Prophet and imitate his qualities and character, then why do we have ill the world vicegerents of God the Source of all Perfection, Ever-living, Ever-present? The truth seems to be that when a thing is hidden from ordinary human view, we need something to remind us of it and to enable us to experience something of the influence of which that thing was capable. The Holy Prophet, therefore, is the most perfect among men and among prophets. Nevertheless, after him, we need men who Will portray his qualities, will imitate his spirit and follow his example. These men should remind us of him and re-establish his influence ill the world.
The thought is contrary also to experience. During the thirteen hundred years which have passed since the time of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace), many spiritual reformers have appeared amongst Muslims. They received the gift of revelation from God and claimed to have been raised for the restoration of Islam. These reformers were distinguished examples of Islam, and played a very important part ill spreading and establishing
Islam-Hazrat Junaid of Baghdad, Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, Shaikh Shahab-ud-Din Suhrawardy, Hazrat Mohy-ud-Dill Ibnal-Arabi, Hazrat Baha-ud-Din Naqshbandi, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Khawaja Moin-ud-Din Chishty, Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah of Delhi and others (on all of whom we invoke the mercy of God). Remembering them all, and not forgetting what they did for Islam and Muslims, how can we believe that after the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) we can have no reformer or spiritual leader appointed by God for the rejuvenation of Islam? The plain truth, therefore, is that even after the Holy Prophet we should have reformers and restorers. We have had them in the past and must continue to have them in the future. The present condition of Muslims cries out for one, and a great one. The fact that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the only one today who has claimed to be such a reformer constitutes a strong argument in his support.