Now, then, let it be clear that an authentic Hadith3 testifies that he who does not recognize the Imam of his time, dies the death of ignorance. This Hadith is enough to make the heart of a righteous man seek after the Imam of the age, for to die in ignorance is such a great misfortune that no evil or ill-luck lies outside its scope. Therefore, in keeping with this testament of the Holy Prophet(sa), it becomes incumbent upon every seeker after truth to persist in his quest for the true Imam.
It is wrong to suppose that anyone who experiences a true dream, or for whom the door of Divine revelation opens, can be called an Imam. On the contrary, to be an Imam requires a comprehensive condition and a perfect and absolute [spiritual] state because of which he is designated Imam in heaven. Obviously no one can be called Imam merely on account of righteousness and piety. God Almighty says:
If every righteous person was to be considered an Imam, all the believers who are righteous would automatically become Imams, and this would be in direct conflict with the purport of this verse. Similarly, according to the clear textual authority of the Holy Quran, not every recipient of revelation or anyone who experiences true dreams can be considered an Imam, for these have already been promised to ordinary believers:
That is to say, in this very world the believers will be blessed with true dreams and revelations. Again the Holy Quran says:
That is to say, those who believe in Allah and then remain steadfast, it is to them that angels continue to communicate revelations of glad tidings and comfort them, just as the mother7 of Moses(as) was comforted through Divine revelation. The Holy Quran, however, shows that revelations or dreams of this kind are spiritual gifts to the ordinary believers whether they are men or women. The fact that they are the recipients of such revelations does not mean that they no longer need the Imam of the age. More often than not, such revelations concern only their own persons and do not convey any [spiritual] knowledge, nor do they carry great conviction. Indeed many of them are not fit to be relied upon. On the other hand, such revelations sometimes cause one to stumble. And until spiritual knowledge is conveyed through the guidance of the Imam, one is not immune to such dangers. An example of this can be found in early Islam: A scribe of the Holy Quran, who, by virtue of being close to the Prophetic light, would often partake of the revelation of Quranic verses just as the Imam—the Holy Prophet(sa)— was going to dictate it. One day the scribe thought to himself, ‘What difference is there between me and the Holy Prophet(sa)? I too receive Divine revelation!’ This thinking led him to his ruin. It is recorded that even his grave threw him out, quite like Balaam8 who was similarly ruined. Hazrat Umar(ra)9 too was the recipient of Divine revelation, but he regarded himself unworthy and had no ambition to be a partner in the True Imamat established on earth by the God of Heaven. Rather, he considered himself to be a humble servant. The Grace of God, therefore, made him the vicegerent of the True Imamat. Uwais Qarni(ra) was recipient of Divine, was also the recipient of revelation. He was so humble that he thought it disrespectful even to present himself before the Sun of Prophethood and Imamat. Our master, the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), would often turn his face towards Yemen, and say:
That is ‘I smell the sweet fragrance of the Beneficent One coming from Yemen’. This was an allusion to the fact that Uwais was indeed the recipient of Divine light. It is a pity, however, that most people of this age do not realize the need for True Imamat. By experiencing a solitary true dream or a few words of revelation, they come to imagine that they have no need for the Imam of the time. ‘Are we any less?’ [They seem to suggest]. They do not realize that such a thought is altogether sinful because our Holy Prophet(sa) has testified to the need for an Imam for every century. He has clearly said that whoever returns to God Almighty, without having recognized the Imam of his age, will do so as one who is blind, and will die the death of ignorance. The Holy Prophet(sa), in this Hadith, made no exception for any recipient of Divine revelation or a seer of true dreams. This clearly shows that if any recipient of revelation or one who experiences true dreams does not enter the fold of the Imam of the age, his end is most likely to be woeful, for it is clear that this Hadith is addressed to all believers and Muslims. Among them thousands have experienced dreams as well as Divine revelations in every age. In fact, among the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), there must have been tens of millions of persons who were blessed with Divine revelation. Besides, it is established by the Hadith and the Holy Quran that, at the time of the Imam of the age, if anyone has a true dream or receives a revelation, it would only be as a reflection of the light of the Imam of the age which falls upon willing hearts. The fact is that when the Imam of the age appears in the world, thousands upon thousands of lights accompany him and heaven is filled with joy. With the dissemination of spirituality and light, the right potentialities become alive. Anyone who has the capacity begins to experience a series of revelations. And anyone who has the capacity to pronounce judgement in matters of faith by the use of reason and reflection, his ability is enhanced. Anyone who has the inclination towards prayers is granted pleasure in his worship. Anyone who is engaged in debates with other faiths is given the power to argue and arrive at incontrovertible conclusions. All these blessings are in fact the outcome of the spiritual radiation which comes with the Imam of the age and descends upon the heart of every ready and eager person. This is a general law and a Divine practice to which we have been guided by the Holy Quran and authentic Hadith, and our personal experience have testified to it. The age of the Promised Messiah(as), however, has even greater distinction in that it is recorded in the books of earlier Prophets and Hadith of the Holy Prophet(sa) that, at the time of his advent, this radiation of spirituality will become so universal that women too will begin to receive revelations, minors will make prophecies, and ordinary people will be inspired by the Holy Spirit. All this will be a reflection of the spirituality of the Promised Messiah(as). This is just like the light of the sun which falls upon a wall and illuminates it, and if the wall is white-washed with lime, it becomes all the more radiant. And if it is inlaid with mirrors, the light becomes too intense even for the eyes to behold. The wall, however, cannot claim this light as its own, for after sunset, not a trace of it remains. Likewise, all revelational light is a reflection of the light of the Imam of the age. Any right minded person—unless he is just unlucky, or is being tried and tested by God— will readily understand this fine point. If, God forbid, anyone fails to understand this Divine secret and, on hearing the news of the advent of the Imam of the age, does not establish communion with him, such a person initially shows indifference to the Imam, which then breeds estrangement, which in turn causes suspicions, and this produces hostility, which—God forbid—ends up in the loss of faith. For instance, when the Holy Prophet(sa) appeared, there were thousands of rabbis who were the recipient of revelations and visions. They used to communicate the glad tidings that the advent of the Prophet of the Latter-days was imminent. But when they did not accept the Imam of the age who was Khatamul Ambiya‘10, they were destroyed by the thunderbolt of Divine wrath, and their ties with God Almighty were completely severed. We need not mention everything about them that has been recorded in the Holy Quran. These are the people concerning whom the Holy Quran says:
This verse means that these people did indeed invoke Divine help for the success of faith and that they were the recipient of revelations and visions. Even though the Jews who had disobeyed Jesus(as) had fallen from Divine grace, but they were absolved of this sin when the Christian faith died on account of worshipping a human being and had lost its truth and spirituality. There was then a rebirth of spirituality among them, and many of them began to receive revelations and visions. There were good and pious people among their rabbis. They used to receive revelations to the effect that the Prophet of the Latter-days and the Imam of the time would appear soon. That is why certain godly scholars, after receiving revelation from God Almighty, immigrated to Arabia. Even their children knew that in the near future a new heavenly dispensation would be established. This is the significance of the verse:
That is, they recognize this Prophet as clearly as they recognize their own children. But when that Promised Prophet(sa) did appear, self-conceit and prejudice doomed most of these rabbis, and their hearts turned black. Some fortunate ones, however, became Muslims and their Islam was indeed praiseworthy. This should lead us to fear God and to be very careful and cautious. Pray God, let no believer ever suffer the fate of Balaam. My Lord God! save this umma from all mischief, and safeguard it against the evil of Jews. Amen, repeat Amen.
Here it should be remembered that God Almighty has made tribes and nations with the object of setting up a physical system of civilization, so that, through mutual contact and relationship, cooperation and sympathy should prevail amongst mankind. In the same way, He has established the system of Prophethood and Imamat to establish spiritual relationship among the Holy Prophet’s(sa) umma, and so that some should interceded for others.
Now, an important question arises: Who is to be called the Imam of the age? What are his hallmarks? And why is he to be preferred over other recipients of revelations, dreams and visions? The answer to this question is that the Imam of the age is the one for whose spiritual training God Almighty Himself assumes charge. He imbues his nature with such a light of Imamat that he takes on all the rationalists and philosophers of the world, and vanquishes them in a comprehensive debate. Sustained as he is by God Almighty, he answers all subtle and abstruse questions in such an excellent manner, that one has to admit that he has come to this transient world equipped with all the provisions for its reform. As a result, he does not have to suffer embarrassment before an opponent. Spiritually speaking, he is the Commanderin-Chief of the forces of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), and it is God Almighty’s Will that through him faith should once again become victorious. All those who gather under his flag are also vouchsafed with capabilities of the highest order. He is blessed with all the necessary conditions essential to reform, and all the knowledge necessary for refuting objections, and for presenting the beauties of Islam. Furthermore, as God Almighty knows that this Imam will have to confront the insolent and foul-mouthed people of the world He also gives him moral strength of the highest order. His heart is full of genuine compassion for mankind. But moral courage does not mean that he exercises clemency on every occasion without rhyme or reason, for it would be against moral wisdom. What it means is that these men are not like malicious and quick-tempered people who seethe with anger at every insult, and their faces betray the ugly signs of inner torture, also known as rage, and continue to rant and rave regardless of time and occasion. This is not the condition of those who are moral. True, they do sometimes use harsh words for the purpose of reform and in keeping with the demand of the occasion, but they do not get angry at heart, nor do they fly into a rage or froth at the mouth. Sometimes they do feign anger in order to overawe someone, while all the time their hearts are relaxed and happy and satisfied. That is why Jesus(as), on a number of occasions addressed others with harsh words, like ‘swine’, ‘dogs’, ‘faithless’, ‘adulterous’, etc., but we dare not say that he lacked the high moral qualities, for he himself taught these high morals and enjoined compassion. These words, which he frequently used, were not due to some fit of anger or frenzy, rather they were used with a calm and cool mind, and only on appropriate occasions. In short, it is essential for Imams to possess a perfect standard of moral excellence. A harsh word is not contrary to moral condition if it is not the result of any bitterness of temper and wild frenzy, and if it is appropriate and necessitated by the occasion. It is worth mentioning that the one whom God makes an Imam with His Own hands, is also invested with the capabilities of Imamat. As mentioned in the verse:
Divine providence has equipped all animals and birds with every faculty which, in the knowledge of God, they would ever need. Similar is the case of those whom God, in His eternal knowledge, wishes to entrust the task of Imamat; they are given beforehand many spiritual faculties that are necessary for Imamat, and the seed of all the capabilities that they might need in the future is sown in their pure nature. As I see it, an Imam must possess the following qualities in order to benefit mankind.
First is moral strength. Since Imams come across all sorts of miscreants and mean and foul-mouthed people, it is essential for them to possess moral strength of the highest order, so that they remain immune against egoistic rage and wild frenzy and people are not deprived of their blessings. It is shameful that a person called ‘a friend of God’ should fall prey to base morals, and should not even be able to tolerate a harsh word. Also, one who proclaims himself the ‘Imam of the age’, and yet has such a volatile temper that he starts frothing at the mouth and his eyes blaze with anger at the slightest provocation, can never be called an Imam of the age. The Imam of the age, therefore, must fully conform to the following verse:
Second is the quality of Imamat by virtue of which he is named the Imam. It means that he should have the eagerness to excel in good deeds, in acquiring Divine verities, and in his love and knowledge of God. This means that his soul should not be pleased at any deficiency nor be content with an imperfect state. He should be hurt if he is obstructed in his spiritual progress. This is the innate faculty that should be found in an Imam. Even if, perchance, people do not accept his teaching and enlightened guidance, or follow his spiritual light, he still remains the Imam by virtue of his innate spiritual strength. In short, this fine spiritual point is worth remembering that Imamat is a faculty ingrained in the very nature of the person whom the Divine Will has designated for this office. The word ‘Imamat’, when translated, means ‘the power to lead’. Thus it is not a temporary office, which is given to him afterwards. In fact, like all the other faculties—of sight and sound and understanding—Imamat is the faculty to forge ahead and to excel all in Divine matters. And this is what the term Imamat implies.
Third faculty is the immensity of knowledge, which is sine qua non for Imamat and its essential property. Since Imamat implies the urge to move forward in truth and knowledge, in the essentials of love, and in sincerity and loyalty, an Imam focuses all his energies on this purpose, and always keeps praying 15. His senses and perceptions are already equipped to perform these functions. That is why God’s grace grants him all encompassing knowledge regarding Divine sciences and there is no one among his contemporaries who can equal him in the knowledge of Quranic verities, in spiritual blessings and in incontrovertible reasoning. His considered opinion corrects the opinion of others. Whenever someone disagrees with him with regard to religious verities, the truth is always on his side. This is because the light of intuition helps him understand the true verities. No one else is granted this light with such brilliance.
So just as a hen sits on its eggs and hatches young chicks, and transfers her qualities to them by keeping them under her feathers, so does the Imam, through his spiritual knowledge, mould his companions, and strengthens them in faith and in Divine knowledge. But such encompassing knowledge is not essential for other recipients of revelation and righteous people, because they are not entrusted with the training and education of mankind. It doesn’t matter much if such pious people and seers suffer from a little ignorance and lack of knowledge; for they are not the captains of a ship, and are themselves in need of one. They should not utter such absurdities as to say, ‘We do not stand in need of this spiritual captain, we are competent enough on our own.’ They should remember that they do need him, just as a female needs a male. Hence, God has created everyone for a purpose. And anyone who claims to be an Imam while he has not been created for this purpose will only invite people’s derision. He will be quite like a foolish mendicant who had invited ridicule in the presence of a king. The story goes that there lived a certain holy man in a city, who was righteous and God-fearing, but was quite ignorant. The king had faith in him, but his minister, who knew of his ignorance, did not. Once, when the king and his minister went to see him, the mendicant, dabbling in Islamic history, said to the king, ‘Alexander of Rome, too has been a great king in this umma.’ This provided the minister an opportunity to criticise. Promptly he submitted: ‘Your Majesty, in addition to his spiritual expertise, the Fakir is also a great scholar of history!’
Therefore, when confronting his opponents and ordinary seekers, the Imam of the age does not require revelation as much his intellectual ability, for there are all kinds of people who criticize the shariah on the basis of medicine, astronomy, physics, geography and authentic Islamic literature, as well as reason and textual knowledge. The Imam of the age is called the defender of the light of Islam. God Almighty pronounces him to be the gardener of this garden. He is obliged to refute every objection and silence every critic. Not only that, but also has to demonstrate to the world the beauty and excellence of Islam. Hence, such a person is worthy of great veneration and is a veritable philosopher’s stone, for in his person Islam is revealed as a living religion. He is the pride of Islam and God’s conclusive proof for all the people. No one has the right to forsake him, for by the Will and Pleasure of God, he is the defender of the honour of Islam, the well-wisher of all Muslims and encompasses the excellences of the faith like a circle. In every battle between Islam and unbelief, he alone is of real help. It is his holy breath that kills unbelief. He is the whole and the rest are his parts:
The Fourth power is high resolve, which is essential for the Imam of the age. Resolve means not to get tired under any condition or to lose hope or to slacken in one’s determination. Many a time, Prophets, Divine Messengers and Muhaddathin18, who are the Imams of the age, are confronted with such trials and calamities, as if God Almighty has forsaken them and intends to destroy them. And many a time revelation and inspiration is suspended and they receive no revelation for a time. Many a time their prophecies appear in the guise of trials and people at large do not understand their truth. Often the realization of their objective is delayed for some time. And many a time, they are like those who are forsaken, abandoned, cursed and rejected. Everyone who hurls abuses at them thinks that he is doing something laudable. Everyone despises them and looks down upon them with disgust and doesn’t even like to respond to their salutations. It is at such moments that their resolve is put to the test. By no means do they lose their heart during such trials, nor do they relent in the performance of their task until Divine succour arrives.
The Fifth power which is essential for the Imam of the age is reliance upon God. This means that in times of trial and tribulation, when they face a bitter enemy and he demands a sign, or when they are in need of a victory, and when it is imperative to help someone, they incline towards God Almighty so much so that their prayers, which are full of truth, sincerity, love, faithfulness and unshakeable resolve, cause a commotion in heaven and their devoted and humble supplications produce in heaven an uproar full of anguish, which creates a commotion among the angels. Then, just as clouds begin to appear in the sky after a very hot season, so does the warmth of their reliance upon God, or the heat of their deep devotion to Him, begin to shape something in the heavens. Destinies change and Divine Will takes on different colours until the cool breezes of Providence begin to blow. And just as God creates the substance that causes fever, so does He create the antidote which expels it upon Divine command. Similar is the effect of the reliance which such people have upon God.
And the trust which the Imam of the age places in God, i.e., his absorption in God, is more profound and effective than that of all the Auliya‘.20 For instance, Moses(as) was the Imam of his age, and Balaam was the Wali of his time. He enjoyed communion with God and his prayers were accepted. When, however, Balaam confronted Moses(as), the contest destroyed Balaam, just as a sharp sword instantly severs the head from the body. The unfortunate Balaam, however, was unaware of the philosophy that, though God Almighty may speak to someone and declare him to be His beloved and elect, but when he confronts one who is more immersed in the waters of Divine grace, he will certainly be destroyed. Neither any revelation nor the fact that his prayers used to be accepted could save him. This was one Balaam, but thousands of such Balaams perished in the time of our Holy Prophet(sa), for most of the Jewish rabbis had become like Balaam after the demise of Christianity.
The Sixth requirement for the Imam is that he continues to receive visions and revelations one after the other. The Imam of the age often receives knowledge, truths and verities from God through revelation. The revelations of other people cannot be compared to these revelations, for both in quality and quantity they are far superior to those of other people. It is through them that [the gates of] knowledge are thrown open and Quranic truths are revealed and all the problems and difficulties relating to the faith are solved. Moreover, they manifest prophecies of the highest order that create an impact on the opponents. In short, visions and revelations of the Imams of the age are not merely confined to their persons but are extremely useful and auspicious in helping the faith, and strengthening the belief. God Almighty speaks to them very clearly and distinctly and answers their prayers. And many a time a dialogue ensues, whereby questions are followed by answers in quick succession. All this takes place in the form of such a pure, delectable and eloquent revelation that the recipient believes as if he were beholding God Himself. The revelation, the Imam of the age receives is not like the case of a person who surreptitiously throws a stone and runs away, without letting anyone know who he was and where he went. God Almighty, on the contrary, comes very close to them, slightly unveiling His Holy and Lustrous countenance which is all Light. This experience is not for others, who at times feel as if someone had been trifling with them. Revealed prophecies of the Imam of the age are tantamount to disclosing the unseen. In other words, they get a complete hold over the unseen, just as a rider has a horse under full control. The reason why their revelation is granted this vigour and [sense of] discovery, is that the pure revelations vouchsafed to them may not be mistaken for satanic inspirations, and may serve as incontrovertible arguments.
Let it be clearly understood that satanic inspirations are a fact, and ordinary seekers do receive them. Similarly, there is a self-suggestion known as confused dreams. Anyone who denies it, denies the Holy Quran, for it testifies to their existence. God Almighty says that as long as man’s self is not fully cleansed and purified, it is possible for him to experience satanic inspirations, and he is described as:
But the righteous are immediately informed about any satanic suggestion. Unfortunately, Christian clerics, while commenting on the incident whereby Jesus was tempted by the devil,22 have dared to suggest that it was not something which actually happened, and which the world could see and the Jews could witness, but was rather a satanic inspiration which he received and rejected three times. One shivers to hear such an interpretation of the New Testament. Messiah(as) and satanic inspiration, indeed! Even if we don’t believe this conversation to be a satanic inspiration, and imagine that Satan did really assume bodily form and met Jesus(as), the following objection would arise: If it were indeed true that Satan—the old serpent—really revealed himself in a corporeal form and took his stand near the sacred synagogue of the Jews, around which hundreds of people lived, then thousands of people must have gathered to see him. In fact Jesus(as) himself ought to have summoned the Jews and shown them the Satan whose very existence was denied by a number of their sects. And this in itself would be considered a sign for the Messiah(as), and many a people would have been rightly guided. Even the high-ranking officials of the Roman Empire would have believed in Jesus when they beheld Satan and saw him flying. But nothing of the kind happened. This lends credence to the belief that this was a kind of spiritual conversation, which, in other words, can be called satanic inspiration. However, it reminds me that in Jewish literature many mischievous persons have been named Satan. In keeping with this usage, the Messiah(as) also gave the name of ‘Satan’23 to an honourable disciple of his, who was given the keys of heaven only a few verses before. So, it is also possible that some Jewish ‘Satan’ might have come to Jesus(as) to mock and ridicule him. And Jesus(as) might have called him ‘Satan’, just as he had called Peter, ‘Satan’. The Jews were given to such mischief, and it is a peculiar characteristic of the Jews to pose such questions. Furthermore, it is also possible that this story is only a myth, recorded deliberately or mistakenly, for these gospels are not the gospels of the Messiah(as), nor have they ever been sanctified by him as such. On the contrary, they have been written by disciples or other people, according to their own perception and understanding. And this is why they differ from one another. We can, therefore, say that some of the writers could have been mistaken with regard to this incident; just as some of the evangelists were mistaken in thinking that the Messiah(as) had died on the cross.24 Such errors were ingrained in the very nature of the disciples, for the Gospels inform us that mentally they were not so perceptive. The Messiah(as) himself testifies that they were weak in intelligence, insight and ability. In any case, the fact is that no satanic thought can come to stay in the hearts of the pure. If any fleeting thought does ever come close to their hearts, it is immediately dispelled and put away and their clean slate remains spotless and clean. In the Holy Quran, such a doubt, which resembles a drab and half-baked thought, is called Ta‘if. In Arabic lexicon it is also known as Ta‘if, Tauf, Tayyifand Taif. A fleeting doubt of this kind has very little relationship with heart, in fact it has nothing at all to do with it. In fact such a doubt is like the faint shadow of a distant tree. And it is possible that the accursed Satan might have wanted to instil such a doubt in Jesus’s(as) heart, and that Jesus(as), by his prophetic power, managed to dispel it. The reason why I have had to mention all this is because this story does not only figure in the Gospels, but is also to be found in authentic Hadith. For instance, it is written:
That is ‘Muhammad bin Imran Sairfi reports from Hasan bin Aleel Anzi, and he from Abbas bin Abdul Wahid, and he from Muhammad bin Amr, and he from Muhammad bin Manadhir, and he from Sufyan bin Aynah, and he from Amr bin Dinar, and he from Taus, and he from Abu Huraira that Satan came to Jesus(as) and said: ‘Dost thou not think that thou art truthful?’ He said: ‘Why not?’ Satan said: ‘If this is true, climb up this mountain, and throw yourself down.’ Jesus(as) said: ‘Woe to thee, dost thou not know that God has said: Do not try Me by thy own death, for I do what I will.’
It is obvious that Satan must have come to him, just as Gabriel comes to the Messengers. Gabriel does not come as people do, on a train or on a hired horse, wearing a turban and wrapped in a chador. Rather he comes as if from the other world. Moreover, how can Satan, who is so wretched, dare to come openly like a man? In view of this discussion one can’t help accepting the stand taken by Draper. But this much can be said that Jesus(as) with his prophetic power and light of truth never allowed any satanic inspiration to come anywhere near him. Instead, he immediately set about rejecting and repudiating it. And just as darkness cannot stand up against light, in the same way Satan could not stand up against Jesus(as) and fled. This indeed is the correct meaning of the verse:
Satan can only become dominant over those who succumb to his temptations and inspirations. But those who strike Satan from a distance with the arrow of light, and smite him in the face with the lash of rebuke, and refuse to submit to any of his nonsense, are exempt from his sway. But since God Almighty wants these people to see the kingdom of heaven and earth, and Satan belongs to the kingdom of the earth, therefore, in order to attain full knowledge of the creation, they must have a glimpse of the face of this bizarre creature known as Satan and hear his speech. But this does not in any way tarnish their purity and chastity. The Satan, in keeping with his age-old method of planting doubts, mischievously made a request to Jesus(as), which his pious nature spontaneously rejected and refused to accept. This did not in any way detract him from his lofty station. Do not villains sometimes speak in the presence of kings? It was thus, in spiritual terms, that Satan put his word into his heart. Jesus(as) did not accept this satanic inspiration and simply rejected it. This was indeed something praiseworthy. To criticise it is a folly and amounts to ignorance of spiritual philosophy. Not every saint or sufi can repel and expose the filth of satanic suggestion as Jesus(as) did with the whip of his light. Sayyid Abdul Qadir Jilani(ra)26 says, ”I too received a satanic inspiration once. Satan said: ‘O Abdul Qadir! all your prayers are accepted. From now on whatsoever is forbidden to others is lawful to you. You are even exempt from obligatory prayers. Do whatever you please.’ At this, I said, ‘Be off O Satan! how can something that was not permissible for the Holy Prophet(sa) be permissible for me!’ After this, Satan disappeared from my sight along with his golden throne.” Now, when even a man of God and a unique human like Abdul Qadir(ra) received a satanic inspiration, how can ordinary humans, who have not yet fully accomplished their spiritual journey, be secure against it, for—unlike Sayyid Abdul Qadir(ra) and Jesus(as)—they lack the spiritual eyes with which to recognize satanic inspirations. Let it be remembered that the soothsayers who were found in large numbers in Arabia before the advent of the Holy Prophet(sa), frequently experienced satanic inspirations, on the basis of which they sometimes made prophecies. Curiously enough, some of their prophecies turned out to be true. Islamic literature is replete with such stories. Anyone, therefore, who denies satanic inspiration, denies all the teachings of the Prophets(as) as well as the very institution of Prophethood. It is recorded in the Bible that once four hundred prophets experienced a satanic inspiration and prophesied the victory of a king, having been fooled by a lying spirit.27 But the king was killed in disgrace in the same battle, and his army suffered a great defeat. But there was one Prophet who had received a revelation through Gabriel, and had predicted beforehand that the king would be killed, dogs would eat his corpse and it would be a great defeat. This prophecy came to pass, but the prediction of four hundred prophets turned out to be wrong.
Now, when satanic inspirations are so frequent, one will naturally doubt the credibility of all revelations. No revelation would seem to be reliable in view of the possibility that it might be of satanic origin. More so, when the same thing happened to a great Prophet like Jesus(as). This seriously undermines the credibility of the recipients of revelation. Is revelation then a kind of ordeal? The answer to this question is that this is no occasion to lose heart, for it is the Divine Law that in this world everything valuable and precious is accompanied by adulterations. Look! there are pearls that are recovered from rivers and then there are cheap pearls which people make artificially and sell. Now the trade of genuine pearls cannot be stopped just because there are imitation pearls also, for the jewellers whom God Almighty has endowed with insight, recognize at a single glance the genuine pearl from the fake one. Hence, the jeweller of the pearls of revelation is the Imam of the age. By keeping his company, a person can readily distinguish between the real and the artificial. O mystics! O victims of this alchemy! tread this path with care and remember that true revelation, which is purely from God Almighty, is accompanied by the following signs:
It is experienced in a state when the fire of anguish melts a man’s heart and it flows towards God Almighty like limpid water. This is what the Hadith refers to, which states that the Holy Quran was revealed in a state of pathos, so you should recite it with a feeling of anguish.
True revelation is accompanied by a quality of pleasure and ecstasy; it bestows conviction for an unknown reason, and it penetrates the heart like a nail of steel and its wording is eloquent and free from error.
True revelation has a certain grandeur and loftiness about it; it hits the heart hard, and it descends upon it with might and with an awesome voice. On the contrary, false revelation is marked by a faint voice like that of thieves, eunuchs and females, for Satan is a thief, a eunuch and a woman.
True revelation carries in it the effect of Divine powers. And it is essential that it should contain prophecies that come to be fulfilled.
True revelation continues to make a person more and more pious with each passing day, and cleanses his inner impurities and filth, and enhances his moral condition.
True revelation is testified by all the inner faculties of a man, which are illumined by a new and divine light. He finds a change in himself, his earlier life suffers death and a new life begins, and he becomes a medium of compassion for mankind at large.
True revelation does not end with a single revelation, for God’s voice has continuity. He is most Kind. He speaks to whosoever He blesses with His attention, and answers his questions. His supplications are answered at the same place and in the same instant, though at times there comes a break.
The recipient of true revelation is never a coward and is not afraid to confront an opponent who himself claims to receive revelations, no matter how hostile he may be. He knows that God is with him and that He will cause his opponent to suffer a disgraceful defeat.
True revelation is a means for understanding spiritual verities and sciences, for God does not wish to keep the recipient of His revelation ignorant and devoid of knowledge.
True revelation is also accompanied by many other blessings. One who has converse with God is granted honour and awe inspiring prestige by heaven.
The present age is so flawed that most of the philosophically disposed persons, naturalists28, and the followers of Brahmu faith29 deny revelation of this kind. Many have departed from this world in this state of denial. But the truth remains the truth, even if the entire world denies it, and falsehood remains falsehood, even though the whole world endorses it. Those who believe in the existence of God Almighty and consider Him to be the Architect of the universe, and know Him to be the All-Seeing, the All-Hearing and the All-Knowing, would be foolish not to believe that He speaks as well. Can He not speak Who sees and knows, and Whose knowledge encompasses each and every minuscule particle without the aid of any physical means? And, it is also wrong to say that though His attribute of speech was functioning in the past, it no longer does so, as if to say, that His attribute of speech is a thing of the past and is no more. Such a belief produces hopelessness. If some of God’s attributes do in fact become redundant after a time, and not even a trace of them is left, then all His other attributes also become doubtful. Woe betides such minds and such beliefs! After accepting all the attributes of God Almighty, they get hold of a knife and excise a vital part of these attributes and throw it away. It is a pity that Aryas put a seal on Divine revelation after the Vedas, and the Christians did likewise, as if mankind needed eye-witnessed revelation for their personal enlightenment and spiritual knowledge, only until the time of Jesus(as), and future generations are so unfortunate as to have been deprived of it permanently. While the fact is that man is ever in need of direct experience and personal insight. A religion can only survive as living knowledge as long as God Almighty’s attributes continue to manifest themselves afresh; otherwise it becomes mere tales and soon dies out. Can human conscience accept such failure? How can God Almighty’s grace shut the door of revelation upon us, when we find ourselves in need of such absolute knowledge as is not possible without converse with God and without great heavenly signs? Have our hearts in these times changed or has God become a different God? We do admit that the revelation vouchsafed to one man at one time can refresh the spiritual knowledge of millions, and that it is not necessary for each and every person to receive it, but we can never admit that revelation should be completely done away with and we should be left with mere tales which none of us has witnessed. It is quite evident that when a matter continues to remain in the form of a story for hundreds of years and there is no fresh example for its verification, most philosophically-minded persons will not accept such tales without strong evidence, particularly when such tales relate to phenomena which are considered contrary to reason in this age. That is why, with the passage of time, people with the philosophical bent of mind have been ridiculing such miracles, and they do not give them any credence at all. In this, they are quite justified because they feel in their heart of hearts that if God is unchanged, and His attributes are unchanged, and our need is also the same as before, and every soul is crying out for spiritual enlightenment, then why should revelation have ceased? Millions of Hindus have turned atheists, for the pundits have repeatedly taught them that revelation has been at an end for millions of years. Their hearts were thus assailed by the thought that if revelation is indeed a fact, why should it have ceased after the Vedas, while they are in greater need of fresh revelations from Parmeshwar.30
That is why atheism has become rampant in the land of Aryas, and this is why you will find hundreds of sects among the Hindus that mock at the Vedas and reject them. One of these are the Jains, and also the Sikhs who parted with Hinduism for similar reasons. This is because, in Hinduism, hundreds of objects have been considered partners with God. There is such a plethora of polytheistic beliefs that it is hard to find any trace of Parmeshwar. Likewise, the Divine origin of the Vedas is a claim based only on a baseless myth going back millions of years, and it is not substantiated by any fresh evidence. That is why the orthodox Sikhs do not believe in the Vedas. In this connection a Sikh gentleman has written an article which appeared in Akhbar-e-‘Am, 26th September, 1898, in which he quotes verses from the Granth to prove that the Khalsas do not believe in the Vedas, and this is what the Gurus have taught. True, the writer does not profess allegiance to the Holy Quran either. This is because the Sikhs have no knowledge of Islam and are unaware of the light which God Almighty has invested it with. Nor, because of ignorance and prejudice, have they any knowledge of the light which the Holy Quran is suffused with. And, as a community, they are related more closely to the Hindus than the Muslims. Otherwise it should have been enough for them if they had followed the testament which Baba Nanak Sahib has left inscribed on his Chola Sahib31, viz., there is no true religion except Islam. It is indeed a great pity to disregard such an important testament of such a holy person, for Chola Sahib is the only personal relic of Baba Sahib left with the Khalsas. As for the verses of Granth Sahib, they were collected much later, and researchers have quite a few reservations about them. God alone knows how many interpolations have crept therein and how many people have contributed to this collection. Anyhow, this is not what we are discussing, for our aim is to point out that, for the purpose of keeping the faith of mankind ever fresh, there is always the need for fresh revelation. Such revelations are recognized by their authority, for no devil, demon or evil spirit has this authority, except God. The revelation vouchsafed to the Imam of the age gives credence to other revelations.
We have already stated that the Imam of the age has in his nature the innate power of Imamat, and Providence invests him with the quality of leadership. It is the way of God that He does not like to see mankind divided and dispersed. Just as He has included a number of planets in the solar system, and has given the sun sovereignty over them, so does He invest the ordinary believers with light in keeping with their spiritual station, and appoints the Imam of the age as their Sun. This Divine practice exists in His creation to such an extent that it is found even among the honeybees. They too have an Imam—known as Ya’sub32. In worldly kingdoms also God Almighty has so willed that a nation should have a leader or a king. May God’s curse be on those who like dissention and do not obey the Amir, despite the Divine command:
In worldly terms, Ulul Amr means the king, and in spiritual terms it means the Imam of the age. Since anyone who is not against our objectives and is physically useful to our faith, is one of us, that is why, my advice to the Jama’at is that they should consider British rule as Ulul Amr and should obey them sincerely, for they do not interfere with our religious affairs. Rather we feel secure on account of their presence. And it will be dishonest on our part, not to acknowledge the British who have helped our faith in a way which even some Muslim rulers of Hindustan failed to provide. Some of these rulers, in their cowardliness, had abandoned the province of the Punjab. As a result, we and our religion suffered great hardship at the hands of various Sikh rulers. So much so that even offering congregational prayers in the mosques and proclaiming Adhan had become difficult. Islam, as a religion, was as good as dead in Punjab. Then came the British, and with them our good fortune also returned. They helped Islam and granted us full freedom in the performance of our religious obligations; our mosques were redeemed to us, and, after a long time, Islam once again began to be openly practised in the Punjab. Is such kindness not worthy of being remembered? The fact is that some of the spine-less Muslim rulers had, on account of their negligence, pushed us into the land of disbelief, but the British, catching hold of our hands and saved us. To indulge in seditious intrigues against the British, therefore, amounts to forgetting the blessings of God Almighty.
Reverting to the original topic, I would like to say that just as the Holy Quran requires of us that we should submit to the one ruler in our physical life, it expects the same from us in our spiritual life. It is in this context that God Almighty teaches us the prayer:
One should reflect, therefore, that no believer—in fact, no man or even animal—is deprived of Divine favours, yet we cannot say that God Almighty commands us to follow them all. This verse, therefore, means that we beseech God to grant us the good fortune of following the path of those who were the recipients of the downpour of spiritual favours in a perfect and consummate way. So this verse actually tells us that we should be with the Imam of the age.
Let it be remembered that the term ‘Imam of the age’ comprises all Prophets, Messengers, Muhaddathin and Mujaddadin. But those who are not appointed by God to educate and guide God’s creatures, nor have they been vouchsafed such excellences, regardless of their being saints or seers, cannot be called the Imams of the age.
Finally we come to the question: Who is the Imam in the present age, whom all Muslims, all righteous people, and all those who experience true dreams or revelations must follow. I hereby proclaim, without any hesitation, that, by the grace and bounty of God,
I am the Imam of the age.
He has brought together in my person all these signs and conditions and sent me at the turn of this century, of which fifteen years have already passed. I appeared at a time when all Islamic teachings, without any exception, were riddled with differences. Likewise, in respect of the Messiah’s(as) descent, extremely false notions had gained currency. Differences were so great that some believed Jesus(as) to be alive while others believed him to be dead; some believed in his bodily descent, while others believed in metaphorical descent. Some thought he would descend in Damascus, others in Mecca, and still others in Jerusalem. Some expected him to appear in the army of Muslims, and some thought he would descend in India. All these differing beliefs and statements called for a Hakam [Arbitrator] to come and judge between them. And I am that Hakam. I have been sent to break the Cross, in the spiritual sense, and to remove these differences. These were the two reasons that necessitated my advent. Although it was not necessary for me to produce any other evidence in support of my truthfulness—for necessity is evidence enough—even then God Almighty has manifested numerous signs in my support. Therefore, just as I am the Hakam to pronounce judgement in all the other differences, so am I the Hakam in the dispute over the life and death of Jesus(as). I declare that the stand taken by Imam Malik(rh)35, Ibn Hazm(rh)36 and the Mu’tazilites37, with regard to the death of the Messiah(as), is correct, and I believe the rest of the Ahl-i-Sunnah to be in the wrong. Therefore, in my capacity as Hakam, I hereby give the verdict that the Ahl-i-Sunnah are right only as far as the basic concept of Jesus’ descent is concerned, for he was bound to descend, albeit in the spiritual sense. Where they have erred, is in the manner of descent, for it was to be figurative, not literal. On the question of the death of Jesus(as), the Mu’tazilites, Imam Malik, Ibn Hazm, and others who hold similar views, are in the right, for according to the clear authority of the blessed verse38 the Messiah(as) must have died before the Christians had gone astray. This is my verdict as the Hakam. He who does not accept it, does not accept Him Who has sent me as the Hakam. If the question is asked, ‘What is the proof of your being the Hakam?’ The answer is that the time for which the Hakam was destined is here, and so are the people whose wrong notions about the Cross the Hakam was meant to rectify. The signs which were to appear in support of the Hakam have appeared, and they continue to appear. The heaven is manifesting the signs and so is the earth. Blessed be those whose eyes are not closed.
I do not ask you just to believe in the signs that have already appeared, rather I ask you to challenge my signs if you do not think that I am the Hakam. It is useless to argue against me, for I have come at the time of the divergence of creeds. Only the debate about the [person of] Hakam is open to all, and I have elaborated upon it. God has given me four signs:
I have been given the sign of eloquence and mastery in Arabic, as a reflection of the Quranic miracle of eloquence, and no one can challenge me on this.
I have been given the sign of expressing the truths and verities of the Holy Quran, and no one can challenge me on this.
I have been given plentiful signs of the acceptance of prayers, and no one can challenge me on this. I can affirm on oath that nearly thirty thousand of my prayers have been accepted, and of which I have proof.
I have been vouchsafed the sign of the knowledge of the unseen, and no one can challenge me on this.
These are the Divine testimonies granted to me. Likewise, the prophecies of the Holy Prophet(sa) about me have been fulfilled like manifest signs.
It has now been a long time since the solar and lunar eclipses occurred during the month of Ramadan. I have also been barred from the Hajj. The plague, in accordance with the Hadith, has spread in the land. Countless signs have been shown through me, which have been witnessed by thousands of Hindus and Muslims, and I have not mentioned here. In view of all this, I am the Imam of the age, and God’s support is with me. He guards me with a sharp sword. Also, I have been informed that whoever mischievously stands up against me, will be disgraced and put to shame. Look! I have communicated the injunction with which I was entrusted. I have frequently written about these issues in my books, but the incident that has induced me to return to them once again, is an error of judgement by a friend of mine, having learnt of which I wrote this booklet with a great anguish in my heart.
The details of this episode are as follows: In September, 1898 A.D., which conforms to Jamadi-ul-Awwal, 1316 A.H., a friend of mine—whom I believed to be innocent, devout and God-fearing, and of whom I have always thought well40 but whom I now believe to be mistaken in some of his thinking, and I remain anxious lest it should cause him any harm—travelled to Qadian with a respected friend of mine to see me. He recounted before me a number of revelations he said he had received. I was very much pleased to know that God Almighty had honoured him with revelations. However, in the course of narrating his revelations, he related to me a dream in which he had said with regard to me, ‘Why should I pledge Bai’at at his hand, it is he who should pledge allegiance to me!’ From this I learnt that he did not believe me to be the Promised Messiah, and that he was unaware of the true concept of Imamat. Therefore, sympathy on my part demanded that I should write this booklet in order to explain to him the doctrine of true Imamat and to spell out the importance of Bai’at. I have already written at length about the true Imam who is entitled to accept Bai’at, now I will say something about the true concept of Bai’at. The term Bai’at is derived from Bai’, which means a transaction carried out by mutual agreement, in which something is bartered for another. The sine qua non of Bai’at is that one who enters into it, sells his being, with all its wherewithal, at the hands of a spiritual guide, in order to acquire in exchange the knowledge of spiritual verities and perfect blessings which lead to Divine knowledge, salvation and favour of the Almighty. This shows that repentance is not the sole object of Bai’at, for a person can have recourse to it on his own. The true object of Bai’at is to acquire the spiritual knowledge, blessings and signs which brings about true repentance. The real purpose of Bai’at is to enslave oneself to the spiritual leader and guide, and to acquire, in exchange, the knowledge, spiritual insight and blessings which help to fortify the faith and sharpen the spiritual vision and establish a pure relationship with God. Likewise, it offers salvation from the hell of this world and, consequently, of the hereafter. And, having cured the blindness of this world, it makes one immune from the blindness of the hereafter. In the presence of such a man who offers these fruits of Bai’at, it would be the height of misfortune to turn away from him knowingly. My dear friend! as for ourselves, we are hungry and thirsty for spiritual knowledge, for truths and verities and for heavenly blessings, and even an ocean of knowledge is not enough to satisfy us. If, therefore, anyone seeks to have me as his follower, he can easily do so by way of this transaction, keeping in mind the significance and true philosophy of Bai’at. lf he has such truths and verities to offer as have not been vouchsafed to me, or if some Quranic profundities have been disclosed to him which have not been disclosed to me, then such a holy man is welcome to take my allegiance, and to give me in return those spiritual verities, Quranic truths and heavenly blessings. I do not wish to inconvenience him. If my inspired friend can only expound in public the truths and verities of surah Al-Ikhlas, and if I fail, on my part, to expound its verities which are a thousand times superior to his, then I shall submit myself before him.
In any case, if you possess the truths, the spiritual verities and the blessings, that are miraculous in nature, then not only myself, but all my followers will also enter into your Bai’at. Only an extremely unfortunate person will refuse to do so. I do not know how to put it, but I am sorry to have to mention that when I heard your revelations, I noticed in them a number of grammatical errors. Pray, do not take offence; it is only out of honest intent, humility and religious obligation that I mention this. But, at the same time, I do not believe that grammatical error in a revelation received by an ignorant or illiterate person, makes that revelation in any way objectionable. This is a very profound and delicate issue which requires detailed consideration, but this is not the occasion for it. A sanctimonious mullah—being unaware of the spiritual philosophy—may be excused if he flies into a rage on coming across such errors. But such revelations are of a much lower order, and are not illumined by the full blaze of Divine light, for revelation is of three kinds: low, middling and high.
In any case, I felt embarrassed at these errors and I prayed in my heart that my honoured friend may not mention these revelations, which are seemingly objectionable, before a mischievous and dry-brained mullah, for he might make fun of him. A revelation, which is devoid of truth or spiritual verities and is so full of errors, cannot be of any benefit to a friend or foe, particularly in this age. It is more likely to do him harm than good. I swear on my faith that what I say is nothing but the truth. My dear friend,42 focus your attention more and more on God, for as the purity of the heart increases, so will the revealed word becomes more and more eloquent. The reason why the Quranic revelation is superior to the revelations of all other Prophets—both with regard to its verities and its eloquence—is that our Holy Prophet(sa) was granted greater purity of heart than anyone else. Thus with respect to its content this revelation took the form of spiritual verities, and in respect of its diction it took the form of eloquence. My friend should also remember that Bai’at, as I have explained before, is a transaction. I do not believe that even a thousandth part of the truths and profundities of the Holy Quran which distinguish the sermons of my learned friend, Maulawi Abdul Karim Sahib, can be expressed by this gentleman. The reason is that his revelational experience is still defective, and so is his learning. I am not sure if he has ever had the occasion to study the Holy Quran from a scholar.43
For God’s sake, do not be offended. You have not yet understood the significance of Bai’at, and you do not realize what you have to surrender and what you get in return. In our Jama’at and among those servants of God Almighty who have pledged Bai’at with me, there is a profound scholar of great excellence, by the name of Maulawi Hakim Hafiz Al-Haj Nur-ud-Din Sahib(ra). Just as he possesses a collection of virtually all the commentaries of the Holy Quran, so is his heart a virtual storehouse of thousands of Quranic verities. If you have indeed been given the privilege to receive Bai’at, then do try and teach Maulawi Sahib the truths and verities contained in just one part of the Holy Quran. Were these people insane to have entered into Bai’at at my hand, and to have rejected all other recipients of revelation? It would have been better for you if you had followed the example of Hazrat Maulawi Sahib(ra). Just reflect, is it for nothing that he has left his home and hearth and has come to me, and is living in a mud-house in great inconvenience? My worthy and dear friend— the recipient of revelation—had better remember that he is seriously mistaken if he thinks so. First of all if, by his spiritual power, he demonstrates before Hazrat Maulawi Sahib(ra) a specimen of his own Quranic scholarship and, with its supernatural light, is able to receive Bai’at from such a lover of the Holy Quran as Nur-ud-Din(ra), then I and all my Jama‘at will be at his service. Is it possible for a person, merely with the help of a few dubious and mostly incorrect words of revelation, to consider himself the Imam of the age? My dear friend! there are many prerequisites for the Imam of the age, and it is because of them that he is able to challenge the whole world.
My dear ‘claimant to revelation’ should not be deceived by the fact that he often receives words by way of revelation. The truth is that there are many such people among my followers, and the revelations of some of them would constitute a whole book. Sayyid Amir Ali Shah, for instance, sends me a whole page of revelations every week. There are also women who bear witness to my claim and receive revelations in Arabic, without having learned a word of Arabic. Surprisingly enough, her45 revelations contain far fewer errors than yours. On 28 September, 1898, I received a few of her revelations in a letter through her real brother Fateh Muhammad Buzdar. Many other followers of mine are also recipients of revelation. One of them resides in Lahore. But can such revelations release anyone from the necessity of pledging allegiance to the Imam of the age? I do not mind pledging Bai’at to anyone, but the object of Bai’at is to acquire spiritual knowledge and to fortify one’s faith. Tell me, then, what spiritual knowledge would you teach to those who pledge Bai’at to you, and what verities of the Holy Quran will you disclose to them? Please come and demonstrate the wonders of your Imamat, and we will gladly pledge Bai’at at your hand.
I proclaim to one and all that whatever God has bestowed upon me serves as a sign of my Imamat. I am ready to surrender myself in Bai’at to anyone who exhibits these signs of Imamat, and proves that he surpasses me in these qualities. But God’s promises are immutable. No one can defy Him. Some twenty years ago the following revelation was recorded in Brahin-e-Ahmadiyya.
According to this revelation, God has vouchsafed to me the knowledge of the Quran and has named me Awwal-ul-Muminin [the first of the believers]. He has filled me with spiritual verities and truths like an ocean. He has revealed to me again and again that no one can equal me in my love for God and His recognition. God is my witness that I am ready for this contest. He who does not accept me will regret it after death, for he is under the Divine argument.
My dear, nothing whether related to the world or to the faith, can be adequately performed without competence. I remember that once a young man of a noble house—who was an absolute ignoramus and did not even know Urdu—appeared before a British official [with recommendation] to be appointed a Tehsildar. The British official said, ‘Who will decide the cases for him if I make him a Tehsildar? I can’t give him any post worth more than five rupees.’ In the same way, God also says:
Is it worthy of a person to whom thousands of friends and foes bring their questions and objections, and who is appointed to represent Prophethood, that he should have just a few revealed sentences to his credit, and those too without any proof? Can this be enough to satisfy his people and his opponents?
I now wish to close this discussion. If there be anything unpalatable in it, I apologize to everyone, as I do also to my friend who claims to be the recipient of revelations. I have written all this in sheer good faith. I love this dear friend of mine with all my heart, and beseech God to be with him.
The humble one,
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,