The fifth argument for the truth of the claims of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) is that he has rejuvenated Islam. He has restored Islam to purity and power. As this was the task appointed for the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, there can be no doubt that he is the Promised Messiah and Mahdi.
Un-Islamic conceptions current among Muslims
All thoughtful persons agree that Islam today is not the Islam which the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) taught to his Companions. The only people who disagree are the Maulvis, who have become insensitive to facts because of incessant religious discussions. There seems little doubt that something is wanting in the Islam of today. Of the Islam of the Holy Prophet’s time we are told in the Holy Quran:
‘Often will the disbeliever’s of Islam wish they were Muslims. ‘ Al-Hijr, 3.
Is this the thought and sentiment of non-Muslims today? No, on the contrary, Islam is the object of derision and doubt. To say nothing of non-Muslims, Muslims themselves entertain doubts about many of the teachings of Islam. Some find fault with its basic teachings, others with its moral conceptions, still others with its regulations for daily life. The certainty and conviction which it once produced in the minds of its followers it no longer inspires today. Muslims today are not prepared to make the sacrifices they were prepared to make at one time. This being so, we have to concede one of three possibilities. Either we must admit that the electrifying power of Islam of which we read in history is only fiction, an exaggeration by later generations of the second-rate achievements of their ancestors. Or we must admit that nobody tries to practice Islam today. Or we must admit that the Islam we practice is not the true Islam and thus Islam no longer produces the results which it should. It is the third alternative which seems true to the facts. The purifying power of Islam and its practical effectiveness are proved not only by the recorded Traditions of Islam but also by evidence to be found in all parts of the world. When Muslims understood and practiced Islam correctly, they were progressive and dominant. Nor can it be said that nobody practices Islam today. Muslims of different persuasions and different conceptions practice the Islam in which they believe. There are Muslims who appoint for themselves the most difficult religious exercises and do not hesitate even to give their lives; yet they achieve nothing for themselves or for Islam. The conclusion is inevitable, therefore, that the conception of Islam present in the minds of Muslims today is not the true one. The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) said:
‘A time will come when nothing will be left of Islam except its name.’ – Mishquat, Kitabul Ilm.
It seems that that time has come. Nothing is left of Islam except its name, that is, its superficial and external observances; the substance the inner significance, is gone. The sort of Islam which is believed and practiced today cannot produce the results which it produced at one time. Nor can this sort of Islam impress the followers of other religions as it once did. No doubt individuals belonging to other religions are attracted even today by its faded glory. But they are few, and they must be extraordinarily good at heart. Generally speaking, Islam no longer makes the appeal which it made at one time. The recorded Sayings of the Holy Prophet point to the same conclusion. On one occasion the Holy Prophet said:
‘A time will come when my followers will become divided into seventy-three sects. All of them except one will deserve the fire.’ – Tirmidhi
Some in the audience asked who the Muslims were who would he on the side of the true Islam. The Holy Prophet answered:
‘. . . those who follow my example and the example of my Companions. ‘
On another occasion he said:
‘O men, acquire knowledge before knowledge disappears.’
Those who heard him asked:
‘O Prophet of God, how will knowledge disappear while we have the Holy Quran in our possession?’
The Holy Prophet replied:
‘In the same way in which it happened before. Your mother may have mercy on you. Do you not see that the Jews and the Christians possess their books? But they have not the least regard for the teachings contained in the books, which their prophets brought to them from God. Knowledge, disappears from the earth when those who have knowledge disappear from the earth’ – Mishquat, Babul Iatasam bis Sunnah
The last sentence the Holy Prophet repeated three times. It appears from the Hadith that a most critical time lay ahead for the Muslim community, the Ummat of the Holy Prophet. This critical time was the time when knowledge was to disappear from this world. At the same time it seems that when this time arrived a party would be found among Muslims which still adhered to the true Islam. This party was to be the party which would imitate the example of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. This party is none other than the party of the Promised Messiah, for the Holy prophet (on whom be Peace) has also said:
‘My Ummat is like the rain. I do not know whether the better part of it is the earlier one or the later.’ – Misquat, chap. Sawab, Hazi-hil Ummat.
Therefore the Holy Prophet’s words ‘those who follow my example and the example of my Companions’ refer to the followers of the Promised Messiah. In truth, no other party or group can answer to this description. No Muslim group can imitate the example of the Companions of the Holy Prophet unless they have seen a Messenger of God in the flesh, unless they have come under his spiritual influence.
Rejuvenation of Islam, a solemn divine promise
From the Tradition just quoted it follows that the rejuvenation of Islam, after the disappearance of true knowledge and true religion from among its followers, is God’s solemn promise. It is therefore necessary that he who claims the office of the Promised Messiah should re-establish the true teaching of Islam and present to the world the true meaning of the Holy Quran. If he fails in this, he cannot be the Promised Messiah. If, on the other hand, in the difficult days of which the Holy Prophet warned us, he manages to save Islam from the distortions introduced by ignorant followers, then he is the Promised Messiah. He and his followers answer to the description contained in the Holy Prophet’s prophecy – ‘those who follow my example and the example of my Companions’. It follows that we have in the rejuvenation of Islam a very important criterion for testing the truth of anyone who claims to be the Messiah. We have to see whether Islam, as understood and practised today, has deviated far from its authentic form. Having done this we have to see whether a given claimant to the office of Messiah has or has not restored Islam to that form.
That current Islam has deviated far from the original is admitted on all hands. It is admitted by all thoughtful persons. If there are persons, who deny this, they must be oblivious to practical realities. The Islam as practised today does not produce the old results. Islam as understood today fails to satisfy the conscience even of Muslims. These things prove that the Islam of today is very different from what it used to be. The only question that remains is whether or not Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has presented to the world the pure and true Islam which, because of its genuine appeal and attractiveness, is able to draw all and sundry to itself. Has he not separated from the gold the dross which ungodly, ignorant and selfish Mullas had mixed up with it? To answer these questions, I proceed to give some examples of how Islam had become distorted and how it has been restored to its original beauty by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
Conceptions contrary to Tawhid
The central teaching of religion is belief in God. For Islam, belief in God serves as the root from which other beliefs and obligations shoot out as branches and leaves. Belief in God is fundamental. Other beliefs are in the nature of elaboration’s or corollaries of this fundamental belief. The principal element of belief in God is belief in the Oneness of God. The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God), from the announcement of his office as prophet right up to his death, kept on teaching the important and basic truth, ‘There is no god but Allah.’ He suffered all manner of physical and mental tortures but did not give up teaching this truth. When he was dying the only thought occupying his mind was this conception of the Unity and Oneness of God. He was afraid lest this important teaching should decline after he was gone; he had suffered so much for its establishment. Muslims read in the books of Hadith and history about the last moments of the Holy Prophet, lying ill with a fatal sickness, weak and exhausted and perspiring profusely. The sickness was growing worse. Thoughts of what might happen to his teaching now that he was going caused him much anxiety. Would Muslims forget what he had taught them for so long? Would they begin to set up equals with God? The anxiety was not about himself or his family, but about his followers, his Ummat. Oppressed by these thoughts, he turned over and over in bed, and as he turned he said:
‘Curse of God on the Jews and the Christians! They turned the graves of their prophets into objects of worship.’ – Bukhari, chap. Miraj-un-Nabi Sallallho Alai-hi-Wassaalm.
In saying this he clearly meant to warn his followers against the tendency to raise human teachers to the status of God, Who is the One, and the Only One. Prophets are only men. In the last moments of his earthly life, no other thought troubled him. He wanted his followers to remember and to worship only God So persuasive and full of pathos are these words that, on hearing them those who felt the least love for the Holy Prophet resolved never even to think of shirk (of compromising the Oneness of God). They wished to repudiate the least tendency to set up anything or anyone as being in any way equal to God. But, reader, you are well aware that Muslims today – a very large number of them – indulge in open denunciation of a teaching which the Holy Prophet thought it necessary to warn Muslims about on his deathbed. Who could imagine that Muslims, who thirteen hundred years earlier had laid down their lives for the defense of the pure conception of tawhid would begin to worship their saints and turn towards their graves even for daily prayers; that they would attribute knowledge of the unseen to mortal human beings; that they would endow their holy men with privilege over the Power of God; that they would address prayers to the dead and would make offerings over their graves; that they would credit their preceptors with the power to persuade God; that they would credit them with miraculous presence in any place at any time; that they would sacrifice animals in the name of those other than God! Worst of all, they would do all this and say it is the teaching of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet! But, God be thanked, while the teaching of the Holy Prophet about the One God is being dishonoured by Muslims everywhere, while the greater number of them are indulging in un-lslamic beliefs and actions, the grave of the Holy Prophet himself is safe from such desecration. Out of His regard for the dying thought of His Prophet, God made his grave immune to such evil use. But the graves of the other great ones of Islam are not so immune. They are the scene of idolatrous activities hardly different from the activities of Hindus in their temples. If the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) were to come and see his followers today, he would not think they were Muslims, but maybe followers of some pagan faith.
It may be said that those idolatrous beliefs and practices are confined only to the ignorant and the illiterate, that the educated classes are sick of them. But the general condition of a people is judged from the condition of its rank and file. If the common run of Muslims are victims of such thoughts and practices, we have to admit that Muslims have gone back on the Tawhid which the Holy Prophet taught them. The thought ‘No God but Allah’ is the soul and spirit of Islam. This soul and spirit Muslims have forgotten. Nor is it only common Muslims who hold these beliefs and indulge in these practices. Religious leaders and Maulvis also indulge in them and are at one with their followers in this. If at heart they do not approve of these beliefs and practices, why do they not denounce them by their words? It is obvious that they have no self-confidence. They are afraid of alienating their followers. All this is evidence of the general decadence of faith in the Unity and Oneness of God. True, there are puritanical sects among Muslims who think they are free from the least tendency to compromise with the Oneness of God. They protest against other Muslims and think they damage Islam by indulging in shirk. But the amazing thing is that the puritans themselves commit shirk. The difference between them and common Muslims is that whereas common Muslims set up many a saint and religious precepter as equal to God, the elect among Muslim Ulema set up only Jesus Christ as His equal. Like common Muslims they believe that Jesus is alive in heaven. The Holy Prophet (peace and the blessings of God be on him), the best of all Prophets and their Chief, is buried in the earth, but Jesus Christ has been alive in Heaven now for two thousand years. The time of his death is not yet come. They read clearly in the Holy Quran that the saints and the holy ones who are worshipped besides God are dead. Nobody even knows when they will be raised to life again. As the Holy Quran says,
‘. . . they are dead, not living; and they know not when they will be raised.’ – Al-Nahl, 22.
They also know that Christians worship Jesus Christ besides God. Reading this verse in the Holy Quran and knowing that Christians worship Jesus besides God, they still cannot give up the belief that Jesus is alive in Heaven. And holding this belief, they still think that they believe in the Oneness and Unity of God. Similarly, they protest against other people committing shirk, but themselves believe that Jesus Christ could restore the dead to life. They read in the Holy Quran:
‘And it is an inviolable law for those whom We have destroyed that they shall not return.’ – Al-Anbiya, 96.
This is God’s unalterable way. The dead ones do not return to life here. We read elsewhere:
‘And behind them is a barrier until the day on which they shall be raised again.’ – Al-Muminun, 101.
From this also it is clear that those who are dead are, as it were, on the other side of a barrier. They will remain there until the Day of Judgment and will not come back to life before then.
The above sect of Islam is the Ahl-i-Hadith sect. They attach great importance to Hadith, the recorded Sayings of the Holy Prophet, but they forget what the Holy Prophet has said about the dead returning to life. When Jabir’s father, Abdullah, was dying, God asked whether he had a dying wish. Abdullah said he wished to live so that he might join the Holy Prophet in Jihad and die in the way of God, that he might live again and die again in the way of God, and so on. At this God said:
‘Had I not promised to Myself never to do so, I would have given you life. As I have bound Myself to this, I shall not do so.’ – Tirmidhi Kitabut-Tafsir, Surah Al-Imran.
People do not seem to remember that restoring the dead to life is not permitted by God in this world. It is His fundamental obligation not to do so. How could Jesus Christ expect otherwise? True, the Holy Quran uses the words:
‘I will quicken the dead’
and the words are applied to Jesus, but the same words have been used in the Holy Quran about the Holy Prophet. But no Maulvi attributes to the Holy Prophet the power to give life to the dead. The Holy Quran says:
‘O ye who believe, respond to Allah and the Messenger, when he calls you that he may give you life.’ – Al-Anfal, 25.
‘Giving life’, when the expression is used in relation to the Holy Prophet, means giving spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead. When such a meaning of Ihya (giving life) is possible and when we know that only God can restore the dead to life, when we know also that those who are dead will not be restored to life in this world, why can we not put a spiritual interpretation on the word Ihya when it is used about Jesus Christ? Why do we attribute to these verses of the Holy Quran a meaning inconsistent with the rest of the Holy Book a meaning which clearly lands us in shirk? These votaries of the Oneness of God believe, and believe firmly, that Jesus Christ was able to create birds. Yet they read in the Holy Quran that God is the Only Creator. The Holy Quran says:
‘And those on whom they call beside Allah create not anything but they are themselves created.’ – Al-Nahl, 21.
Again it says:
‘Or, do they assign to Allah partners who have created the like of His creation, so that the two creations appear similar to them? Say, “Allah alone is the Creator of all things, and He is the One the Most Supreme.”‘ – Al-Ra’ad, 17.
And again it says:
‘Surely, those on whom you call instead of Allah cannot create even a fly though they were to combine together for the purpose.’ – Al-Hajj, 74.
They read these verses of the Holy Quran and yet attribute the power of creation to Jesus Christ, and he is one of those on whom people call instead of Allah.
In short, the Holy Quran unambiguously teaches that only God creates. If anybody else were able to do so, then he also would be worthy of worship. Yet when they come upon verses like ‘I will fashion out in you a creation out of clay after the manner of a bird’ (3:50), they think that it proves that Jesus Christ could create birds out of clay. They do not remember that a given word can have many meanings. Why attribute to a given word in a given place a meaning which is inappropriate to man or God ? why should they lend that word a meaning contrary to the fundamental teaching of God elsewhere, a meaning which detracts from the Oneness and Glory of God? Why should they profess pure belief in the Oneness of God and yet set up equals with Him? These are dangerous deviations from pure belief in Tawhid (Oneness) to which Muslims, learned or ignorant, Sunnis or Shias, of one sect or another, are committed. In the face of these deviations nobody can say that Muslims still believe in ‘No God but Allah’. No doubt Muslims still profess belief in this and they still recite this part of the Kalima. But they also entertain beliefs contrary to Divine Oneness; so Muslims have moved as far from the true teaching of God as the nations and peoples who hold pagan beliefs. To correct these deviations and to bring Muslims back to the true conception of the Oneness of God, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) re-stated and re-asserted the true Islamic conception. His exposition of this conception is so true to the original spirit of Islam, and so attractive, that anyone who accepts it finds anew the old love of God as well as the old abhorrence of shirk, once a distinctive feature of Muslims. It restores belief in the One God and saves us from the danger of compromising with this belief. One re-acquires the conception of Tawhid held by the Companions of the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Mirza Sahib refuted these un-lslamic beliefs by strong; arguments. He re-affirmed the Oneness of God. God is One and the Only One. To call upon any dead person, to make offerings at the graves of the dead, to make obeisance to anyone alive or dead, to attribute distinctive divine powers or divine knowledge even to a prophet of God, to slaughter animals in the name of anyone other than God, to offer anything else to achieve the pleasure of that one, to think that any man, however holy, can persuade God to grant anything – such beliefs, or tendencies to such beliefs, are compromises with the pure conception of the Oneness of God which Islam has taught.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also proved that Jesus Christ like other prophets died a natural death and was buried underground some- where in this world. He gave spiritual life to the spiritually dead not physical life to the physically dead. He created as any man can create. But restoring the physically dead to physical life was not for him. He could not create life out of death, with or without the permission of God. God is jealous about His special attributes. He does not share them with anyone. The teaching of the Holy Quran is against any such thought. The special divine powers are special to God. They cannot be shared by Jesus Christ or any other human being. Those who compromise with the Oneness of God in different degrees, use this very defence, namely, that the divine powers they attribute to certain men have been bestowed on them by God Himself, that those men have not become deities independent of the One God.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib re-stated the Islamic teaching – the teaching which is true to human conscience and human understanding. He dispelled the darkness of pagan beliefs which had crept into the minds of Muslims and showed again the true path which had been abandoned. He did what the Messiah of the Prophecy was to do.
Strange conceptions about angels
Among the fundamental beliefs of Islam, belief in angels is next to belief God. This belief also has become distorted in various ways. According to some, angels could sin. They could criticize God. In accounts of Adam, angels are represented as critics standing before God, urging objections of one kind or another against His scheme of creation. It is forgotten that the account of Adam in the Holy Quran puts the highest praises of God in the mouths of the angels:
‘We glorify Thee with Thy praise and extol Thy Holiness.’ – Al-Baqarah, 31.
The angels affirm that they only praise God and extol His Wisdom, Power and Holiness. The story of Harut and Marut, a complete invention, has found currency in Muslim theology. It is said that God sent two angels masquerading as men. They fell in love with an evil woman. For punishment they were hung in a well, head downward (God save us). It is also said, God forbid, that Iblis or Satan was a leader among angels. Another belief about angels which has crept into the Muslim mind is that angels are physical beings engaged in crude physical activities. They run hither and thither on errands of different kinds. The angel Izrael has to run here and there. Being the angel of death he has to take now this man’s life, now that man’s.
Against such primitive conceptions we have, at the other extreme, a complete denial of angels. According to some modernists angels are imaginary beings. The teaching of the Holy Quran on the subject of angels is interpreted by them in naturalistic ways. Angels, it is said, represent different kinds of physical forces. Some among Muslims deny outright the teaching of the Holy Quran and Hadith. They do not think that the message of the Quran was brought by Gabriel. They raise other objections to the Quranic teaching about angels. Belief in angels, they say, is derogatory to the Power of God.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib corrected these misconceptions, taught the true teaching of Islam on the subject, and removed the objections and difficulties raised by some classes of Muslims over this delicate subject. He proved that angels do not commit sins. Nor do they criticize God’s plans. We have the clear teaching of God in the Holy Quran:
‘They disobey not Allah in what He commands them, and do as they are commanded.’ – Al-Tahrim, 7.
Angels are a special kind of creation. They are set to do certain things in certain ways. Their essence is complete and perfect submission, without the freedom to do otherwise. Can such creatures sin? The very nature bestowed 011 them by God forbids such a thought. To make love to evil women is impossible for them. They cannot forget God and involve themselves in divine punishment. If angels can sin, why have we been asked to believe in them? Belief indicates obedience, and God cannot ask us to obey beings capable of error and disobedience. To obey beings who can disobey is unthinkable.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also taught that angels are spiritual beings. They do not have to move about to go from one place to another. Their powers and functions are exercised from their own positions. They are like the sun, whose light and heat are emitted from a certain centre, and like the sun they carry out the commands of God. In executing divine commands they use the powers with which they are endowed. They do what they are told.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the idea that Satan was one of the angels or a leader among angels. Satan, according to the teaching of Islam, was an evil spirit. God says about him: ‘And he [Satan] was one of the disbelievers’ (2:35), a born disbeliever.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also corrected the belief which had crept among modern educated Muslims that angels are only imaginary beings or symbols of certain physical forces. He quoted his own experience and observation in support of his belief in angels. He argued against those who said that a belief in angels was derogatory to a belief in the Power of God. God gave us eyes; but He also made light and colours to enable us to see. He gave us ears; but He also made air and other media to enable us to hear. Belief in light and in air and other media is not derogatory to a belief in the Power of God. So how can belief in angels be derogatory .o His Power? It seems that God works with means and media; they are a part of His eternal wisdom. He uses them in His spiritual creation. He brings about physical changes through them and also spiritual changes. Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed that means and media do not connote defects in the Power of God. They are provided so that finite human beings with limited sensibility can become aware of what goes on around them. Angels as the spiritual means and media with which God works in the realm of spirit are- meant to help the limited understanding of ordinary human beings. In this way Hazrat Mirza Sahib explained the true meaning of belief in angels. He presented angels as God and His Prophet would have presented them.
Misconceptions about the Holy Quran
The third fundamental belief, according to Islam, is belief in the revealed books. Belief in revealed books underwent curious changes. Muslims had come to entertain strange thoughts about revealed books, in particular about the Holy Quran. We are not concerned with other revealed books; we are concerned first and last with the Holy Quran. For us, Muslim belief in other revealed books is secondary, belief in the Holy Quran primary. Other books do not exist in their original form, nor are we obliged to act upon their distorted teachings.
The thoughts which Muslims had come to entertain about the Holy Quran were very strange indeed. They seem more strange to me because I have learnt the truth about the Holy Book from the Promised Messiah. Indeed, but for him, even I would have accepted many a fable about the Holy Quran. The strangest thing taught and believed about the Holy Quran is that after the death of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God), the contents of the Holy Quran disappeared, if not in toto at least a large part did. According to some Muslim authorities even the present text of the Holy Quran contains evidence of human interference. Other authorities contradict thoughts of this kind. They even brand them as Kufr. But they teach other things about the Holy Quran which are no less obnoxious. For instance, they teach that parts of the Quran have become abrogated. The basis of abrogation is apparent inconsistency between parts. If a verse or a passage is found ‘contradicted’ by another, it must be considered abrogated. Emboldened by this, other Muslims, pointing to other ‘inconsistencies’ in the Holy Text, started applying the theory of abrogation to other parts of the Book. Verses said–by different authorities–to have been abrogated add up to a very considerable number. According to the standard theory, a large part of the Holy Quran stands abrogated and Muslims are no longer obliged to believe in or act upon it. (God, save us from such evil thoughts.)
The evil results of this theory of abrogation go very far. Not only have some parts of the Holy Quran become abrogated, according to some authorities; the trust and reliance which early Muslims placed in every part of the Holy Quran is now gone. Thoughtful Muslims are perturbed by the situation. Some parts stand abro- gated, some not, but there is no certainty as to which is which. God and the Holy Prophet have not told them about it. How then can they rely on such a book? Apparently Muslims can treat their Holy Book as they like. Parts they do not favour, they can dismiss as abrogated. Parts they favour they can accept as not abrogated. A misconception about revealed books, especially the Holy Quran, is that no revealed book is completely free from the evil influence of Satan. It is said that Satan mixes up his own speech with the speech of God as it descends to a human recipient. The authority of the Holy Quran is cited in support of this fantastic belief. Verse 22:53 is the supposed authority:
It is usually translated as follows:
‘And We have not sent before thee any Messenger or Prophet but when he had any messages, Satan mixed up with them his own messages.’ – Al-Hajj, 53.
The crucial word in the verse is Umniyah. In the context of the verse the translation of this word is ‘plan’ rather than ‘message’. The Arabic language permits both meanings, but Muslim commentators somehow preferred the wrong meaning. Umniyah translated, as ‘plan’ would make the verse perfectly intelligible. The verse would then mean that whenever prophets have sought to carry out their plans, Satan has put obstacles in the way. Muslim commentators have not been content with this fairy tale alone. They have gone further. They have cited examples of verses revealed to the Holy Prophet with which Satan mixed up certain words invented by himself. It is said that the Holy Prophet was reciting verses of Surah Najm. When he reached the words ‘Now tell me about Lat and Uzza; And Manat, the third one, another goddess’ (53:20, 21), Satan mixed up with the revealed words the words ‘these goddesses with artistic long necks can serve as intercessors’. These words which, it is said, came from Satan were also recited by the Holy Prophet as part of the revealed passage. Among the audience were some non-believers. When they heard this unexpected praise of their goddesses, they prostrated themselves. The Holy Prophet was surprised. Later he realized that the words in praise of the pagan goddesses had been introduced by Satan. The Holy Prophet was embarrassed at the realization.
The whole incident is a fabrication, but how easily Muslim commentators have accepted it.
Some commentators have produced another account. Finding the common version of it utterly nonsensical, they suggest that the words attributed to Satan were not introduced by Satan into the Prophet’s recitation but were added by Satan in his own voice modulated like the Prophet’s. The audience thought that the words came from the Prophet’s lips. This second account is as silly as the first. With either, the Holy Quran as a revealed book remains no longer the indubitable and absolutely reliable revelation which Muslims believe it to be. If Satan is capable of introducing his own speech into any revealed speech, no prophetic revelation can be treated as a pure divine communication. However, Muslim commentators point to a solution of this difficulty. It is in the verse which follows and which says:
‘But Allah removes the contamination due to Satan and re-establishes His own communication and Allah is Knowing, Wise.’ – Al-Hajj, 53.
This is no solution of the difficulty. Once it is admitted that Satan is capable of interpolating his own words into the divine communi- cations, we cannot say whether a given text is free from such interpolation or not. Supposing it is said that the verse which promises the expurgation of the Satanic admixture is itself a Satanic interpolation: we then have no guarantee that the Holy Quran is a pure revelation of God.
Relative authority of the Holy Quran and the Hadith
Many have reduced the authority of the Holy Quran vis-a-vis the Hadith (the Traditions of the Holy Prophet). Weak and even fabricated Traditions have been raised to a level higher than that of the Holy Quran. In the name of loyalty to the Holy Prophet, communications of the Mighty God have been dishonored by selfish and low-minded theologians. The Holy Quran may deny a thing most clearly; but if a weak Hadith can be found which deals with the same subject it will be set above the text of the Holy Quran. Similarly, the Holy Quran may assert a thing most clearly; but if a weak Hadith can be found contrary to the same thing, the Hadith will be set above the Holy Quran.
Some Muslims think that the Holy Quran is not the speech of God but the speech of the Holy Prophet himself. They describe the Holy Book as divine, even as the Word of God. But their view is that thought and ideas which emerged in the clean and clear mind of the Holy Prophet were stimulated and supported by God. The speech of the Holy Quran thus becomes the speech of God. More strictly, the thoughts and ideas come from God, but the words in which they are clothed come from the Holy Prophet. God does not communicate the words. The communication of words entails a vocal apparatus, which one cannot attribute to God! Therefore the thoughts come from God, the words from the Holy Prophet!
Some Muslims think that the Holy Quran cannot be translated. But ordinary Muslims can understand the Quran only through translations. So a ban on translations has prevented Muslims in general from understanding the Holy Book. What can come of such a ban except ignorance, reaction, and irreligion?
Some think that the Holy Quran is a book containing broad philosophical principles. Determinate teaching here and there does not mean the book can give us detailed guidance.
Some think that the words of the Holy Quran need not always be read in the order in which they are recorded, that they are subject to what is called Taqdim and I Takhir, because of which the apparent order of words may be altered to reach the meaning.
Some have collected all the fictitious stories they could find, whether they have a bearing or not. They may be repugnant to common understanding or conscience, they may be contrary to the plain teaching of the Holy Quran, but they have been admitted into commentaries as Israelite material. The stories are attributed to saints and holy men who lived long ago and who can have no knowledge of what has since been attributed to them.
Some deny that there is any rational order or sequence of meaning between parts of the Holy Quran, between verse and verse, chapter and chapter. They openly declare that the contents of the Holy Book are a disjointed assortment, more like the utterances of a man who is not aware of what he is talking about. Subjects entirely unconnected with one another are introduced in succession. There is no rational connection.
A very general and very widespread view among Muslims is that somehow, for some reason, God no longer speaks to human beings. The divine attribute of Takallum (speech) has become suspended. God now sees and hears but does not speak.
In short, different sections of Muslims have proposed different views about the Holy Quran. The result is a dismemberment of the Holy Book. The beauty, grandeur, and living character of the Book have been destroyed, all in the name of service of the Holy Book! This is not service but disservice. The effect has been to alienate people from the Holy Book and make them indifferent to its influence.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib removed all these misconceptions. By powerful arguments he proved that the Holy Quran is the Last Message, the Last Law of God for man. No part of it is abrogated. It is immune to all abrogation. Whatever it teaches can be practised. No part of it really contradicts any other, so that no part stands in need of abrogation. Those who spot contradiction or inconsistency in it are ignorant or feeble of understanding. They project their own lack of understanding onto the Holy Book. The Holy Book, Hazrat Mirza Sahib taught, has not altered one little bit since it was revealed. Every word, every letter, remains as it was revealed to the Holy Prophet. Not only has the Book not altered in any way, it is incapable of such alteration. Neither the meaning nor the text can undergo any change. There can be neither interpolations nor extrapolations. God Himself is its Protector. He has provided both physical and spiritual means for its protection. Human interference can corrupt neither the text nor the teaching. It is wrong, therefore, to think that any verses or parts of verses have been superseded by any others, or that there has been any change in the Holy Book. The slightest change is inconceivable. The Holy Quran today is secure in every sense of the word and will remain so in the future. To say that any part of the Holy Quran disappeared is an accusation against God. It means that God sent a perfect book for the guidance of man, but the perfect book could not maintain its perfection. It failed to fulfil its purpose even for a day. To think that the Holy Book is capable of alteration is to make the Holy Book unreliable. If the Holy Quran is subject to alteration, it is necessary that a new prophet and a new book should be sent for the guidance of mankind. It is against all reason to think that mankind should go without divine guidance even for a day.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also proved that the Holy Quran – in fact, every kind of revelation – is proof against interference by Satan. It is impossible that Satan should mix his speech with the speech of God by overpowering the Prophet’s vocal apparatus or by mimicking the Prophet’s voice. Hazrat Mirza Sahib cited his own experience in this connection. Though only a humble follower of the Holy Prophet, a mere servant, revelations received even by him were free from doubt. How could any doubt be cast on revelations received by the Master? No doubt could, therefore, be cast on the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran was guidance for all time. To think that such a revelation was subject to satanic interference, even if it lasted for only a moment, was fatal.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib stressed the true character and status of the Holy Quran. He pointed out that the promise of divine protection had been fulfilled in most wonderful ways. Even the enemies of Islam had admitted that the Holy Quran had remained intact since its revelation. To try and match the Hadith with the Holy Quran was an insult to the Holy Book. It amounted to a rejection of the Holy Book. If there are Hadith which contradict the Holy Quran, they cannot be true Hadith. Even the Holy Prophet of God cannot go contrary to the Word of God. Nor have the various kinds of Hadith been as carefully collected or recorded as they could have been. The Hadith, therefore, cannot be equated with the Holy Quran. The Hadith has to occupy a place subordinate to the Holy Quran. If ever a contradiction is spotted between a Hadith and any part of the Holy Quran, it is the Hadith that we must give up. A contradictory Hadith is a witting or unwitting fabrication. It was commonly believed that details of religious duties and religious history have come to us through the Hadith. Hazrat Mirza Sahib taught that there was a third source of Islamic knowledge; the Sunna. By sunna is meant the visible practice of the Holy Prophet, whatever the Holy Prophet did and whatever his Companions saw him do. What they acquired through direct imitation of the Holy Prophet was even more reliable than any alleged utterance of the Holy Prophet; the latter may have been transmitted through a long chain of narrators. The reliability of the Sunna rested on secure foundations. Millions of Muslims saw millions of other Muslims do certain things in certain ways and learnt to do those things in those ways. From them the practices were transmitted to other Muslims. Such well-established practices, persisting through gen- erations of Muslims, do not contradict the Holy Quran. Hadith records are supposed to be utterances of the Holy Prophet. In the course of reporting, these utterances can become distorted, so that Hadith may contradict the Holy Quran. The reliability of Hadith, therefore, is open to question. If a Hadith contradicts any part of the Holy Quran, it deserves no attention. If, however, it is consistent with it and in accordance with it, it deserves acceptance. It then becomes a part of history, or historical evidence which cannot be dismissed without cause. Important truths would become lost if historical evidence were to be dismissed so easily.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also demonstrated the futility of the view that the words of the Holy Quran are not divine, that they could be attributed to the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Mirza Sahib proved that the words, the vowels, and vowel points of the text of the Holy Quran are divine. The Holy Prophet himself was a Messenger, a com- municator of the Word of God, not the author. It was wrong to think that as human speech entails the use of lips and a vocal apparatus, and as God cannot be said to possess such an apparatus, it is impossible to think of God speaking to man as one man speaks to another. Such thoughts are far-fetched. God is Unique. ‘Nothing is like unto Him.’ The powers and attributes of God cannot be thought of as being like those of human beings. If speech is impossible without vocal organs, so is the making of a thing impossible without the use of hands. It is crude to attribute to God hands similar to human hands. Must we then deny that God is our Creator? It follows that God can speck to man without the usual vocal apparatus, just as He can create without physical hands. Again, he cited his own experience and said that difficulties of this kind arose because of sheer ignorance. Those who are not strangers to the experience of revelation know what revelation can be. Hazrat Mirza Sahib said that revelations received by him were couched in words. If he could receive verbal revelation, why not the Holy Prophet, the Leader of mankind, the Elect, the Most Favoured of God (on whom be peace and the blessings of God)? Those who have no experience of revelation have no need to speculate about its nature and content. Ignorance is bad enough, but to volunteer opinions about matters about which we are ignorant is worse. It was futile, said he, for strangers to God to speculate about the ways of God.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the view that the Word of God cannot be translated. How else could the meaning of the Holy Quran, its beauty and depth, be communicated to those who did not know Arabic? It was wrong to publish only translations of the Holy Book. If only translations were published, people would gradually forget the revealed text. It was even possible that translations made from translations would result in the obliteration of the original text. It was both useful and necessary for the text to accompany the translation. It was necessary also to promote a minimum knowledge of Arabic. Muslims should know Arabic to be able to read the Arabic Quran and receive benefits and blessings which they could receive in no other way. It was necessary to master at least the parts of the Arabic Quran used in the daily prayers. Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the view that the Holy Quran was a revealed book in general but not in particular, that it taught broad principles on certain matters but was always not to be taken too literally. Hazrat Mirza Sahib stressed the view that the Holy Quran was comprehensive and clear. It had laid down clearly all truths which man needed for his spiritual advancement. As such it had no parallel. But Muslims had ceased to reflect upon the contents of the Holy Book; therefore, they themselves were to blame if the meaning of the Holy Quran did not dawn upon them The Holy Quran teaches:
‘None shall touch it except the clean and pure.’ – Al-Waqiah, 80.
To have access to the deeper meaning of the Holy Quran, it is necessary to be clean and pure. Those who are low of understand- ing are wont to project their low minds onto the Holy Quran. Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed how religious truths and principles could be derived from the Holy Quran itself. He discussed objec- tions raised by the enemies of Islam against the Holy Book and proved that a clearer and a more comprehensive treatment of the moral, religious, and spiritual difficulties of man could not be found. The Holy Quran economizes on words, but underneath the words are oceans of meaning. A single phrase, a single sentence, can branch out into a number of different meaning. The text of the Holy Quran is miraculous because the same text can meet the changing needs of man. The needs of man change according to the time and the circumstances.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the theory of Taqdim and Takhir. He taught that the words of the Holy Quran are set in the most appropriate places. The places appointed for them in the Holy Text cannot be altered without damaging the meaning. Only the ignor- ant believe that the words of the Holy Quran are subject to alteration of order. These words are to be read where they are. The place of each word is essential to its meaning. The beauty and variety of meaning depend on the word order adopted in the Holy Quran. By examples Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed that word order is a part of the Holy Text. Ignorance and lack of insight lead people to cast doubts on the subject.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also protested against the free use of Israelite stories for an understanding of the Holy Quran. Writers of commentaries had been misled by slender and superficial resemblances between accounts of the Holy Quran and accounts contained in Jewish literature. When accounts in the Holy Quran are different, it is because the Holy Quran does not accept the Jewish version. It is wrong in such cases to force on the Holy Quran accounts invented by others. The Holy Quran is not a book of fiction or even of history. It is not interested in narratives of past events except for their spiritual significance or as pointers to the future. References to past history are warning that similar events are going to take place in the life of the Holy Prophet or in the subsequent history of Muslims. If accounts given in the Holy Quran of past events are to be construed so as to make them consistent with the elaborate versions of the same events in the books of the Jews, we only ruin the meaning, which the Holy Quran wishes to convey. The Holy Quran bears witness against earlier books. The earlier books do not bear witness against the Holy Quran. To understand the meaning of the Holy Quran we need not draw on the evidence contained in the earlier books. To understand its meaning we need to draw on the Holy Quran itself. The meaning of the Quran is in the Quran. No outside help is needed.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also proved that the Holy Quran was as perfect in arrangement – arrangement of chapters, verses, and words – as it was in its thought and its language. The themes of the Holy Book are connected. They do not succeed one another arbitrarily but arise naturally and inevitably out of one another. A perfect arrangement runs through the whole. From the first word of the first chapter to the last word of the last runs a rational arrangement. The Holy Quran has a perfect internal design. Its chapters, verses, and words follow a perfect plan. Those who ever become aware of this design go into ecstasy. When they compare the beauty of internal arrangement which they find in the Holy Quran with the beauty of arrangement in some human book, they find a world of difference. Those who have had no insight into the Holy Book hold the view that the Holy Book is full of disjointed themes or useless narration’s. Their view is based on ignorance, or they are too quick to pronounce an opinion. Hazrat Mirza Sahib demonstrated the perfect arrangement running through the Holy Quran by examples. People were surprised.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the idea that God does not now speak to man. He cited his own experience and said that the attributes of God are everlasting. Divine attributes do not lapse. If God continues to see and hear as He did in the past, He must also continue to speak. And God need not communicate laws and ordinances only. He also communicates assurances. Assurances of His pleasure, for instance. If such assurances were to cease, we would have no means left of finding out whether God was pleased with us or not. God must continue to speak, therefore. While there are human beings in the world. and while there are those amongst us who strive with sincerity for the realization of His pleasure and act on the teaching of Islam, God must continue to favour men with His verbal assurances. Hazrat Mirza Sahib thus removed the many misconceptions which had grown around revealed books and around the very institution of revelation. These misconceptions taken together had cast serious doubt on the value and validity of revealed books, including the Holy Quran. Hazrat Mirza Sahib rebuilt this part of a Muslim’s faith on secure foundations. He disclosed the true nature and greatness of divine revelation and persuaded his followers and others to believe in and become aware of it again. He removed the error which had crept into the minds of both Muslims and others and revealed the truth about revelation. Muslim and non-Muslim alike saw the resplendent light of the Holy Quran. They could not open their eyes for the glare.
Misconceptions about prophets
The fourth fundamental belief taught by Islam is belief in prophets. This belief too had decayed. Lacking rational and spiritual insight, Muslims had corrupted their belief in prophets in many strange ways. Not only had the belief changed, it had become repulsive to Muslims as well as to others. The vile attacks which have been made on the personal character of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) are due to the fantastic views which Muslims in our time had come to hold about prophets in general and about the Holy Prophet in particular. Christians and other critics of Islam draw more on the false traditions included in Muslims’ books than on evidence which they themselves fabricate. These false traditions have become part of the everyday beliefs of Muslims. They narrate them in daily conversation and in weekly sermons, to the sorrow of all self-respecting Muslims. Enemies of Islam are seen attacking the person and character of the Holy Prophet by weapons forged foolishly by Muslims themselves. These attacks reveal the hypocrisy of those who fabricated traditions and spread them among Muslims. But they also give non- Muslims a chance to attack the purity of life and character possessed by our Holy Prophet.
Prophets are raised to promote piety and purity among mankind and to guide them back to ends forsaken and forgotten. During the days of their decline Muslims started attributing to prophets moral weaknesses one hesitates to attribute to ordinary decent men. Not a single prophet has escaped their accusations. From Adam to the Holy Prophet all have been charged with transgression against the Laws of God. Noah is said to have prayed for his son when he had been forbidden to do so. Abraham is said to have lied on three different occasions. Jacob is said to have cheated his dying father and to have obtained his blessing by masquerading as his elder brother. Joseph is said to have committed adultery in his mind with the wife of the Egyptian ruler. It is said that Joseph was about to commit adultery and could not be persuaded against it. Then he saw the image of his father, Jacob, became ashamed and restrained himself. It is said also that he committed theft as a child and that he once intrigued to let his brother stay with him. Moses is said to have murdered an innocent person without cause and to have thus committed a major sin. It is said that Moses was not content to murder this man. He also made off with his belongings. David is said to have murdered a man in order to possess his properly wedded wife. He had to be reprimanded by God on marrying the widow of his victim. Solomon is said to have fallen in love with a pagan woman; also to have become possessed by Satan so that Satan began to rule instead of him. Affected by love of riches he became forgetful of his duty to God. Inspecting horses he forgot his time of prayer and did not remember until after sunset.
However, the worst faults have been attributed to the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). We men owe so much to the Holy Prophet that in sheer gratitude we must hold our heads bowed before him. It is cruel in the extreme that he to whom we owe most has had the worst faults attributed to him. No aspect of his life has gone untouched. It is said, for instance, that he wanted Ali as his successor, but did not appoint him for fear of other people. It is also said, God forbid, that he became infatuated by Zainab, his cousin. It is said that at last God let him marry Zainab when her divorce from Zaid had received divine sanction. It is also said that he had secret relations with a slave girl in the care of one of his wives. The wife saw them together, whereupon he was full of remorse and promised solemnly not to do it again. He also made his wife promise that she would not tell anybody. It is also said that he wished the teaching of Islam could be softened for the sake of pagan Arabs. He was willing to make concessions out of respect for their feelings. These beliefs about prophets are held by Muslims. They are included in commentaries and histories venerated among Muslims.
A form of thinking current among modernist Muslims cuts at the very root of religion. According to this, prophets were more like diplomats. They loved their people and wished to raise them up the moral and political scale. They found, however, that no moral or political teaching had any chance of success unless it was connected with beliefs relating to the Hereafter, the Day of Judgment, Heaven and Hell, etc. The inculcation of these mysteries was necessary not because they were true, but because without them no people would observe the restraints which civilization entails. Revelation is not a fact. No prophet ever had any revealed knowledge or guidance. The claim was made in order to impress people. But even as diplomats, prophets were deserving of respect and reverence. Their intentions were pure and their influence was wholesome. Such beliefs can be no part of Islam, but they have been held by Muslims in our time.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (on whom be peace) refuted these among other misconceptions. He stated the correct teaching of Islam on these matters for the benefit of both Muslims and others.
He taught, for instance that the primary reason for the appearance of prophets is to promote a life of piety. They serve as examples to others. If this is not one of their most important functions, why must they come at all? If all that is required is a teaching, a book of beliefs and laws, why not have books and nothing more from God? But we have had prophets as well as books; from which it seems that the great object which the appearance of prophets serves is that practice should go with precept, that men should try and establish in the concrete what revelation teaches, that they should know what revelation really means and should feel heartened and inspired by seeing in the flesh models of virtue and piety, and should solve their difficulties through strength derived from spiritual preceptors who are also spiritual exemplars.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib taught that the many errors current in his time about the moral side of prophets were due to gross misunderstanding. The care needed to understand the revealed Word of God had not been exercised. Conclusions carelessly drawn had bee handed down from generation to generation. The Prophets of God are pure, sinless, and models of truth, love and loyalty. They reflect in their characters the noble attributes of God. Their clean and beautiful lives point to the Purity and Holiness of God. They also serve as a mirror in which others can see their own image reflected. Evil men, therefore, often see their own vicious nature in them. What they impute to the prophets really belongs to the evil men themselves- Adam was no sinner. Abraham never lied. Joseph never resolved on any evil deed, nor did he steal or fabricate. Moses committed no murder. David did not seduce anybody’s wife. Solomon did not forget his duty to God for the love of a pagan woman or for the sake of his horses. Nor did the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) commit any sin, great or small. He was holy, free from the least lapse, incapable of any wrong or transgression. Whosoever points to faults in his conduct or character shows his own faults. The stories told about him are the inventions of hypocrites. They cannot be substantiated by canons of history or biography. They are inconsistent with the rest of his life, thoughts and sentiments. Imputations against him or other prophets are survivals of lies deliberately invented by hypocrites who lived and moved among genuine believers. Or they are the result of failure to understand the meaning of the Texts of the Holy Quran.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib proved from the Holy Quran that all such thoughts are un-Islamic. They crept into Muslim writings through Christian influence. In Christian writings it had been the aim to enumerate the faults of prophets in general. They did this in order to prove the divinity of Jesus. Unless Jesus was absolutely without sin and other prophets were sinners to some extent, Jesus could not be proved superhuman and God-like. This seems to be the reason why, even among Muslims, faults are attributed to all prophets including the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace) while Jesus is absolutely sinless. Not only Jesus, but also Mary, his mother, is regarded as a paragon of sinlesslless. This difference in the treatment meted out to Jesus, on the one hand, and to other prophets, on the other, proves that false and repulsive stories found their way into Muslim books through Christians. How this vicious influence came into Islam is another question. It is possible that Muslims accepted the influence unconsciously because of daily contact with Christians. It is also possible that some mischievous Christians outwardly accepted Islam and then spread these false Christian stories among Muslims. In the beginning Muslim historians and collectors of Traditions included these fables with the other Traditions current among Muslims. Their honest regard for historical material demanded nothing less. The distinction between true and false Traditions was maintained for a time. The example and influence of the Holy Prophet became more distant. Writers who came later lost sight of the distinction between true and false. They accepted tales contrary to the spirit and standards of Islam, but rejected Traditions which pointed to the truth about prophets. Had such Traditions remained in these writings, they would have dissolved all doubts and difficulties.
But, thank God, Hazrat Mirza Sahib separated the gold from the dross. The true status of prophets was re-asserted and their honour re-established, especially the honour of the Holy Prophet of Islam (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). The purity of life and character which the Holy Prophet possessed was not only reasserted but made plain by irrefutable arguments. The worst enemies found themselves silenced.
The Hereafter, Heaven and Hell
The fifth fundamental belief of Islam is belief in the Hereafter, in Heaven and Hell. This belief too had all but disappeared. It certainly disappeared from men’s hearts. For had the belief really survived, Muslims would not have turned their backs on the teachings of Islam as they did. Conceptions and constructions current among Muslims on the subject of life after death and Heaven and Hell seemed to bear little relation to the true Islamic conceptions. What was the Paradise of popular Muslim belief, for instance? A place of pleasure, of unremitting sensuality. If this was the Paradise promised to good and godly men, then human existence was to be a life of sensuous delights, of wine, women, and song! There was nothing more that men could aspire to! But the object of human existence, according to the Holy Quran, is very different. It is that men should learn to adore God (51:57). To adore is to obey. To obey is to imitate. To imitate is to absorb, to appropriate and acquire the attributes of God. The object of human existence, therefore, is to promote a godly life. A godly life is the good life. It is impossible that in this life men should try for three score years and ten to learn to live godly lives, but should hereafter enter a life of sensuous pleasures. This conception of the life hereafter bore no relation to the life valued even in this world. Similarly, Hell was thought to be the permanent abode of evil-doers. Those who were condemned to live in Hell were condemned to live there for ever. An uncompromising despot, God would never again forgive His sinners!
Hazrat Mirza Sahib rejected all these conceptions. He employed arguments and showed miracles to restore the correct Islamic belief on each subject. He demonstrated the instability of life in this world, the beauty and value of life hereafter. He created in human hearts conviction and certainty about the life to come and the desire to live and work, and wait for it. The half-truths and sensual images Muslims had come to believe about Paradise were also removed by him. Paradise was no mere metaphor, nor was it a place of physical delights, more stable and on a larger scale than the physical delights of this world. The blessings of Paradise are very different. The physical delights of life hereafter are like the joy one derives from good works in this life. What is mind and spirit in this life, becomes body m the life hereafter. What is mind and spirit in the life hereafter is a more developed and a more advanced form of existence than anything we know in this world. The powers of the spirit in the life hereafter are far more advanced than the powers of the spirit we know in this world. The human sperm has a physical as well as a spiritual side. It consists of both body and spirit. But the man who develops out of the sperm has a spirit far superior to the spirit within the sperm.
Similarly, Hazrat Mirza Sahib proved that the punishment of Hell is not a punishment without end. It is a punishment destined to end sooner or later. It may last a long time but not for ever and ever. It is not punishment without end. A permanent Hell is contradictory to the dignity of a Merciful God. ‘My mercy encompasses all things’ (7:157). This is the fundamental character of God according to the Holy Quran. Everything is ruled by Divine Mercy. The Holy Quran describes the rewards of Heaven as rewards ‘which shall not be cut off’ (11:109), and as ‘rewards unending’ (95:7). The description used for the punishment of Hell is very different. The difference of description proves that the rewards of Heaven and the punishment of Hell are long-lasting but in very different ways. Why should not readers of the Holy Quran observe and heed this difference?
The Holy Prophet himself said in explanation of the teachings of the Holy Quran about Heaven and Hell:
‘A time will come in Hell when not a single man would be left in it. Its doors and windows will rattle to the blowing wind.’ – Kanzul Ummal, p. 270.
This is a description of an emptied Hell. The Mercy of God will eventually take out of Hell every one of its inmates, and Hell will become empty. This being the teaching of the Holy Prophet, nobody has any right to teach anything else.
Muslims victims of extremes
Fundamental beliefs apart, great changes had taken place in the everyday life of Muslims. They had become fond of extremes. Some of them advocated complete casualness as far as religious duties and works were concerned. It was quite enough, they thought, that one should profess belief in the Kalima: ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet.’ After this profession one was free to do and live as one liked. The Holy Prophet was their intercessor. If there were no sinners, for whom would the Holy Prophet intercede?
Others thought that religious ordinances were only a means to an end, like the boat which carries one to the shore. Those who had found God had no further use for religious ordinances. These were intended for those who had to complete the journey.
Still others thought that religious duties had been ordained as external symbols of internal states. When the Holy Prophet appeared in Arabia, the Arabs were savage and primitive. Their minds and spirits were also savage, primitive, and immature. Therefore an emphasis on external performances – ablutions, prayers, prostrations, fasts, etc. – was necessary. Now mankind had advanced. Their understanding had also advanced, so the external formalities were no longer necessary. If a man is clean, if he remembers his God, is mindful of the needs of the community serves the poor, is moderate in eating and drinking, takes part in patriotic activities, and so on, he does as much as he is required to do as a Muslim. His prayers, fasts, Zakat and Hajj are now the good and prudent things he does.
Other Muslims went to the other extreme. They thought that to attain salvation it was necessary for Muslims to follow the example of the Holy Prophet in the minutest detail. If, for instance, the Holy Prophet used a certain form of dress, it was the duty of Muslims to use the same kind of dress. If the Holy Prophet wore long hair, then long hair had to be worn by Muslims, and so on. Some Muslims thought that the Holy Prophet had no right to teach anything by way of religious duties. The Holy Quran contained everything which God required of man. Anything besides this was false and futile. The Holy Prophet as a human being could not add anything to what God had taught.
Still others placed excessive reliance on certain scholars or doctors of religion. These authorities, they thought, had said the last word on questions of beliefs and works. Our duty was to obey, and obey without question.
These were the larger beliefs and works in which Muslims had deviated from the true teaching of Islam. When we turn to details, we come across even more dangerous digressions into un-Islamic ways. Some Muslims branded as Kufr the learning of languages other than Arabic, English for instance. Some thought learning modern science was inimical to true faith. On the other hand, some among Muslims deny some of the clear teachings of the Holy Quran, about the taking of interest for instance. According to the Holy Quran, the taking of interest is like going to war against God (2:280). Yet the taking of interest is said to be lawful and permissible.
In details of prayers, fasts, obligatory charity, rules of inheritance and other matters, irreconcilable differences existed between the various schools. The true teaching of Islam had become completely confused. Sometimes small and minor points were fancied to be fundamental. Those who proposed to think of certain details in a different manner were censured. Should a Muslim raise his index finger while reciting the part in the Kalima ‘I bear witness’ etc., he had to lose that finger. If Muslims said ‘Amen’ loudly while praying in congregation, they had their mouths filled with dirt and dung. The practical life, like the life of belief, had deteriorated through deviations, disagreements and extremes of various kinds.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib reformed the practical life of Muslims also. He pointed out that indifference to prescribed religious duties was wrong and led to ruin. One could not sin deliberately and expect intercession by the Holy Prophet on the Day of Judgment. The Holy Prophet’s intercession was for those who did their utmost to avoid sin. Intercession was to help them over weaknesses and lapses which occurred in spite of an effort to avoid them. Intercession was not for sinners. The privilege of intercession had been awarded to the Holy Prophet to put down sin, not to promote sin.
Abudiyat or Shariat?
Thus Hazrat Mirza Sahib demonstrated that the object of human life was Abudiyat, absorption of divine attributes or imitation of His character, and not Shariat, the observance of prescribed laws or external duties. What God had commanded, we must indeed observe and do. But closeness to God was an infinite process. We could be closer and closer to Him, yet not quite reach Him; so that we could never think that closeness had been achieved, that there was nothing more to be done. The prayer taught in the Sura Fatiha – ‘Thee only do we worship’ and ‘Thee only do we ask for guidance to the straight path’ – had to be repeated many times a day by every Muslim. It had to be repeated even by the Holy Prophet, who repeated it up to his death. He also repeated other prayers contained in the Holy Quran, such as ‘O my Lord, increase me in knowledge’ (20:115) Closeness to God and insight into His nature are of infinite dimensions, closer and closer to completion but never quite completed. Not even the Holy Prophet, to say nothing of ordinary believers, could think that praying had become redundant. Those who think so can have no conception of the Infinity of God. God is like a limitless ocean. One can never hope to cross it. To think so is to offend God.
Similarly Hazrat Mirza Sahib pointed out that the object of human life and of human aspirations lay in practising the teachings of Islam. These teachings keep in view the needs of all times and of all levels of culture. The spiritual advance of man necessitated a due observance of the teachings of Islam, of practical ordinances as well as theoretical beliefs. It was wrong to think that they were meant for a bygone age, that their interest now lay in their history. The teachings of Islam had everlasting value. They could not be replaced by anything else.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also taught that human activities are of two kinds. One kind consists of prescribed acts of worship and of preferred ways of doing things. The other kind consists of modes, methods, or manners favored by a community or nation. The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) displayed in his person and in his example both kinds of activities. He carried out the different forms of worship which were to become part of the daily life of a Muslim. He also demonstrated ways of doing things which he would prefer to other ways. But the Holy Prophet also observed the modes and manners of his time, his community and race. The latter were no part of Islam. Islam could not be conceived in terms of any community, nation, race, or group. It had to be conceived in universal human terms. To compel Muslims to adopt the ways and modes which the Holy Prophet adopted as an Arab or as a Quraish was cruel and un-lslamic. In such matters even the Companions of the Holy Prophet, his devoted contemporaries, did not conform to a single pattern. They observed their individual ways and fashions, but did not accuse one another of being un-lslamic.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also refuted the idea that as the Holy Prophet was a man like other men, Muslims owed obedience only to God, not to the Holy Prophet. Against this Hazrat Mirza Sahib taught that prophets are endowed with a special understanding of the Word of God. Insight into divine purposes, which prophets have, can be acquired by nobody else. The interpretation of divine purposes is a prerogative of each prophet. Not to recognize this subverts true faith.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also corrected the belief that any good man can be held up as an authority and as the last word on the subject of religious belief and duty. True, there are men who are incapable of judging for themselves. For their convenience it seems pardonable and even necessary that they should appoint as their leaders men whose personal piety, purity, and insight in religion are superior to their own. But this does not relieve individual Muslims of their responsibility to judge all questions for themselves and to find their own answers to those questions. Muslims who are endowed with knowledge and understanding cannot offer blind, unquestioning obedience to anyone else. Those who are blessed with knowledge are duty-bound to act in accordance with their knowledge and judgment of what the Holy Quran and the Hadith have to say on any given subject.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib exposed the absurdity of extending the scope of religious teaching unnecessarily. Religion is concerned with the moral and spiritual advance of mall. Its prohibitions and its commands do not apply beyond a given point. A knowledge of languages, for instance, is a useful acquisition. All languages have in some sense been created by God. A language could be acquired or not, according as it serves or does not serve a given purpose. Not only is it not a sin to acquire proficiency in useful languages, it is necessary to do so. Some languages are useful for the propagation of religion. The acquisition of such languages is an act of spiritual merit.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib strongly prohibited the receiving of interest. He taught that this prohibition of Islam was full of wisdom. Muslims could not take it lightly and compromise with it for the sake of small worldly gains.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib also taught that religious teachings are of two kinds. They are either principles or details of principles. Principles have been laid down in the Holy Quran and on them no disagreement is possible. It is open to everybody, however, to try and understand their meaning and their scope. Details of principles, on the other hand, are also of two kinds. The first is details which have been settled by the Holy Prophet himself; maybe he ordered certain things to be done in certain ways and prohibited other ways of doing the same things. In such details, Muslims are bound to act as they have been commanded to do by the Holy Prophet. The second is details which can be understood in different ways. Sometimes we have more than one version of how the Holy Prophet did a certain thing. It may also be that in such details Muslims since the very earliest times have acted in different ways. In such matters the obvious duty of Muslims is tolerance. They can choose their own way of doing those things but must tolerate ways different from their own. Other ways were as well sanctioned by practice as the ways preferred by them. The different ways must be considered right and proper and equally sanctioned. If the different ways had not been sanctioned by the Holy Prophet, how could one section of Companions adopt one way and another section another way of doing the same thing? The truth of the matter is that human- individuals are very different from one another. They therefore act in different ways in certain matters. Keeping in view this important fact of human nature, the Holy Prophet permitted a variety of ways of carrying out the same duties. He himself may have adopted different ways for doing the same thing. He did this in order to show that human nature was variable, that not only did different individuals do the same thing in different ways, but that the same individuals did the same thing in different ways on different occasions. Raising the two hands at the time of Takbir in the course of the daily prayers had to be understood and tolerated in the light of this fact of human nature. It is known that the Holy Prophet himself sometimes raised and sometimes did not raise his hands at the time of Takbir. The same applies to the saying of ‘Amen’ in a congregation. Some members of the congregation said the ‘Amen’ loudly, some not. The Holy Prophet accepted both practices. Folding the arms while standing in prayer could also be done in different ways. It seems that the Holy Prophet himself or the Companions folded their arms, now nearer the waist, now higher up. Again, variety was permitted. Within limits one could choose to do as one liked. But someone who chose to do a certain thing in a certain way need not object to another doing the same thing in a different way. The other was free to do the same thing in his own way. By laying down and re-stating all the wise provisions of Islam, Hazrat Mirza Sahib resolved many disagreements between sects and put an end to many controversies among them. These controversies related to details of doing certain things. Rid of these disagreements and controversies, Muslims of our time can go about their religious duties with the dignity and freedom of the Companions of the Holy Prophet.
Why wait for another?
This may give you, dear reader, some idea of the reform which Hazrat Mirza Sahib carried out in the attitudes and beliefs of Muslims. If this reform were to be described as fully as it deserves it would need a book to itself. Therefore I am content to point only to the main outlines. You can judge even from this short account that Hazrat Mirza Sahib removed the errors which had crept into the belief of Muslims and their conceptions of religious duties. Islam has been presented by him in its true light, so its original charm has begun again to attract its followers and others. Its purifying power has begun to show again.
Now, dear reader, I have described the errors of belief and action from which Muslims had begun to suffer in our time. These errors crept in despite the fact that Muslims are in possession of a Book whose every word and vowel-point has since its revelation been under divine protection. A people possessing a protected holy text like the text of the Holy Quran could not have strayed into errors worse than these. Worse errors of belief and action are conceivable but only in the event, God forbid, of the Holy Quran undergoing a textual alteration. But a textual alteration of the Holy Quran is impossible under divine promise. Therefore Muslims could not have fallen into worse errors.
Now let us think awhile. The errors into which Muslims have fallen have reached the worst possible limits. Yet the time has not arrived for the coming of the Promised Messiah? On the other hand, Hazrat Mirza Sahib has not only come, but has also corrected the errors into which Muslims had fallen and removed the dangers to which Islam had become exposed. Must we still wait for another to come and do the same thing? The tasks appointed for the Promised Messiah have been duly carried out by Hazrat Mirza Sahib. Therefore he must be the Promised Messiah. When the sun is at the zenith, it is futile to deny its existence. In the face of clear arguments, it is futile to deny the truth that Hazrat Mirza Sahib is the Promised Messiah.