The ninth argument, also composed of many smaller arguments, pertains to the gift of special knowledge. The coming of prophets fulfils one cardinal need, namely, the instruction of mankind in principles without which spiritual life is not possible. Prophets come and guide men to the fountain of spiritual knowledge so that they can slake their spiritual thirst. Now, the ultimate source of all life, and therefore of spiritual life, is the One All-Powerful and All-Knowing God. Prophets come and establish links between men and their God. This results in knowledge of spiritual matters, which results in nearness to God and insight into His nature and attributes. He who would impart this knowledge to a whole generation of human beings must himself possess it in abundance.
Prophets endowed with special knowledge
He who claims to have been appointed to spiritual office cannot make good his claim unless he can show that he himself possesses such knowledge in abundance, and that God Himself imparts this knowledge to him and guides him in its acquisition. To measure the claim of Hazrat Mirza Sahib, therefore, we can draw on the criterion of special knowledge. We can see how far God endowed him with such knowledge. The Holy Quran says:
‘And He taught Adam all the names.’ – Al-Baqarah, 32.
Names here means the attributes of God. Knowledge of these attributes is knowledge of all things. Knowledge of the Divine Being is knowledge of divine attributes, which also comes of observation and experience. But one appointed to a spiritual office is endowed with such knowledge by God. We read of the prophet Lot:
‘And to Lot We gave wisdom and knowledge.’ – Al-Anbiya, 75.
And of David and Solomon:
‘And We gave knowledge to David and Solomon ‘ – Al-Naml, 16.
And of Joseph:
‘And when he attained to years of strength, We granted him judgment and knowledge.’ – Yusuf, 23.
And of Moses:
‘And when he reached the years of strength and knowledge, and attained maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge, and thus it is We reward those who do good deeds.’ – Al-Qasas, 15.
Of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God), we read:
And He has taught thee what thou knewest not and great is Allah’s grace on thee.’ – Al-Nisa, 114.
All prophets, all those who hold spiritual office from God, are blessed with the gift of divine knowledge. The Holy Prophet was not only endowed with such knowledge; he was promised more and more knowledge. He was taught the prayer:
‘O my Lord, increase my knowledge from more to more.’ – Taha, 115.
One of the special gifts every Messenger of God receives from God, therefore, is the gift of special knowledge. Such knowledge was imparted to the Promised Messiah. The difference between the Promised Messiah and other messengers is that the Promised Messiah enjoyed a special grace and attained special knowledge, because of his devotion to his master and preceptor, the Holy Prophet of Islam. He received the gift in imitation of the Holy Prophet. A special grace of God endowed the Promised Messiah with a special measure of natural and spiritual knowledge. Not only was he endowed with insight into spiritual truths, he was also endowed with the power to express those truths. He challenged his contemporaries in respect of both. Knowledge and the power to communicate knowledge were his as divine gifts.
The Holy Quran, an unchallenged literary miracle
Of the two I shall now describe the second, the power to communicate knowledge. As an example I cite the miracle of language, a spiritual inheritance from his master, the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). This miracle was not given to earlier prophets. About the Holy Quran a unique claim was first made:
‘And if you are in doubts as to what We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call upon your helpers besides Allah, if you are truthful.’ – Al-Baqarah, 24.
This challenge of the Holy Quran claims unique merit for the language and contents of the Holy Quran. The challenge is accompanied by the warning that those who deny the Holy Quran will never be able to produce anything like it. The merit of the Holy Quran to which the challenge pertains comprehends everything – its spiritual and moral teaching, its prophecies, its appeal, and not least its language and style. The challenge is addressed to all and sundry. Let them all match their literary productions with the Holy Quran. In one place we read:
‘This is a Book whose verses have been made unchangeable and then have been expounded in detail. It is from the One, Wise and Aware.’ – Hud, 2.
Two broad hints are contained in the attributes of wisdom and awareness. The All-Wise God can reveal a book full of wisdom. The All-Aware God was aware that the world was entering an era of intellectual progress. Therefore intellectual miracles were to be shown to convince the world of the power and knowledge of God. Therefore, God made the Holy Quran a miracle of perfect knowledge and perfect expression. The Holy Quran lays down not only claims, but also arguments and evidence. It is its own witness.
The Promised Messiah was a disciple, an imitation of his master the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). The gifts of the Promised Messiah, therefore, were a reflection of the gifts of his master. His light was a borrowed light. Small wonder that the Promised Messiah was able to demonstrate the miracle of mastery of language. He had attended no Madrassah. He had private coaches of ordinary ability. He only read parts of some well-known texts with them. He never travelled to Arab countries. Nor did he live in towns where Arabic was in vogue. He lived in a village and his resources were limited.
The Promised Messiah’s Arabic works
When he announced his claim and turned to the work of reform, his critics first attacked his lack of learning. They described him as a Munshi, that is to say, a half-educated scribe. He was literate; so he was able to write. Some of his writings had attracted attention; so he had come to have a reputation. He was no scholar, knew no Arabic, and did not have the qualifications to pronounce on religious matters. This criticism was raised in every conversation and in every hostile writing. A wall of prejudice was erected against him. It was untrue to say that he knew no Arabic, however. He had read the standard books. But he had certainly not had the benefit of instruction from any great scholar. He had earned no testimonial after study at an old school. He was not one of the leading Ulema of the country, nor was he a Maulvi of any status. When this criticism spread far and wide and the Mullas started trumpeting it in and out of season, God granted him special knowledge of the Arabic language. According to him, God endowed him with a vocabulary of 40,000 words in a single night. He was granted miraculous competence in the Arabic language; he was commanded to write Arabic books and promised special help. His first attempt in Arabic prose was a chapter he appended to his book Aina-i-Kamalat-i-Islam. This chapter contained a challenge to those who found fault with his lack of Arabic. He asked critics to produce something better. Nobody accepted the challenge. He then wrote book after book in Arabic. The number of his Arabic works amounts to more than twenty. Some of these were accompanied by offers of rewards amounting in some cases to Rs 10,000. (These cash rewards can still be won by anyone who produces something which equals them in beauty and power of language.) Nobody took up the challenge; nobody produced anything in reply. Some of his Arabic books were written as a challenge to Arabs. Even they failed to write in reply, and withdrew from the field. One of his books was addressed to Syed Rashid Riza, the well-known editor of Al-Manar. The Syed was invited to write in reply, but he did not. Other Arabs were similarly invited, and they did not.
Maulvis in the Indian sub-continent showed they were beaten when they said that the Arabic works said to have been written by Hazrat Mirza Sahib had really been written by an Arab who worked for him in secret. This criticism made it quite clear that the standard of his Arabic works was really very high; but his critics thought they were written for him by someone else. Hazrat Mirza Sahib met the criticism by suggesting that his adversaries could have the help of as many Arab and Syrian writers as they liked. Repeated efforts were made to attract them to this literary contest but nobody came forward. These Arabic works are still without a reply.
A sermon revealed
Besides these Arabic works, he produced an unpremeditated sermon in Arabic. He was commanded in a revelation to make the attempt, even though he had never before made a public speech in Arabic. The Id-ul-Azhia (the festival of sacrifice) was due the following day. In obedience to the revelation he delivered a lengthy sermon in Arabic after the Id prayers. This sermon was later published under the title Khutba-i-Ilhamiya (‘A Sermon Revealed’). This sermon is couched in Arabic of a high order. It impresses Arab and non-Arab writers and contains an exposition which enhances the merit of the literary production.
This intellectual feat is one of his most outstanding miracles. Some miracles make a great impression, but only on their immediate witnesses. Others produce an impression which lives long afterwards. This intellectual miracle is of the latter kind. The authenticity of this miracle has been admitted even by his enemies. This miracle imitates the miracle of the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran remains unparalleled as a literary composition. So will the Arabic works of the Promised Messiah. This sign of his authenticity will remain resplendent for ever.
Some who are taken aback by this miracle raise the objection that the claim to show the miracle of language is an insult to the Holy Quran, for it is the Holy Quran which first claimed unparalleled merit for its literary quality. To say that Mirza Sahib has been endowed with a miraculous mastery of language is to claim for his writings equality with the Holy Quran. This objection is based on sheer prejudice. The slightest thought would convince anybody that the miraculous merit of the Arabic writings of the Promised Messiah does not detract from the miraculous merit of the Holy Quran, which is only enhanced by those writings.
Merit is of two kinds: absolute and relative. Absolute merit stands by itself. It needs no comparison with other examples of merit. Relative merit is merit in comparison with others. This conception of absolute and relative merit may be illustrated from the Holy Quran. Says the Holy Quran (addressing Israel):
‘I exalted you above all peoples.’ – Al-Baqarah, 48.
Addressing Muslims the Holy Quran uses a similar expression:
‘You are the best people, raised for the good of mankind.’ – Al-Imran, 111.
The Holy Quran describes both Israelites and Muslims as the best of all peoples. This seems like a contradiction, but if we examine the texts more carefully there is no contradiction at all. The description used for Israelites applies only to a certain time, namely, the time at which the description was used. The description used for Muslims applies to all times, past, present, and future. Similarly, the uniqueness and the miraculous character of the Arabic writings of the Promised Messiah are to be understood in a relative sense, that is relative to other human productions. But the uniqueness of the Holy Quran is absolute. It is superior to any human writing and superior also to other books revealed by God. The writings of the Promised Messiah, including his revealed sermon, possess only relative uniqueness while the Holy Quran possesses absolute uniqueness. Therefore the miracle of language which the Promised Messiah showed does not and cannot detract from the miraculous merit of the Holy Quran.
The Holy Quran proved more unique than ever
I said, however, that the writings of the Promised Messiah have enhanced the merit of the miracle of the Holy Quran. This may be explained as follows. Uniqueness itself is of different kinds. One kind of uniqueness is insignificant. A writing may be unique among all known writings, but the difference in merit between it and the other writings may not be very great. The other writings may be inferior, but not very inferior to it. In a race the winning horse can win even if the difference between it and the second horse is only a few inches. This difference could have been larger. It could have been a difference of one yard or several yards. Similarly, a unique writing can be superior to other writings by a small degree or a very large one. The writings of the Promised Messiah stand between the Holy Quran and other writings. If writings can be found which are superior to human writings but inferior to the Holy Quran, this will show how superior is the literary merit of the Holy Quran. Hazrat Mirza Sahib’s writings, therefore, have enhanced the merit of the Holy Quran. Writings which were placed equal with the Holy Quran have now been found inferior even to the writings of the Promised Messiah, and this raises still higher the merit of the Holy Quran. The miracle of the Promised Messiah is subordinate to the miracle of the Holy Quran. It serves only to bring out the uniqueness of the original miracle. It makes more evident than ever before how great is the distance between the Holy Quran and other literary compositions.
Arabic, the mother of all languages
Besides the gift of mastery of Arabic, which the Promised Messiah was granted by God, he also had insight through divine grace, into a unique characteristic of the Arabic language, namely that Arabic is the mother of all languages. This was a great and amazing discovery. European scholars, after laborious investigations, pointed to either Sanskrit or Pahlvi as the mother of languages. Some scholars thought that the original language had vanished altogether and that the earliest known languages, Sanskrit and Pahlvi, were branches of this original but extinct language. Arab scholars were not aware of the unique character of their own language. Even they, in deference to European scholars, looked for the most original language among languages other than their own. While scholars groped for the first human language, the Promised Messiah had divine insight into the subject. He was told that Arabic was the mother of all languages. It was a strange discovery. After reflection on the Holy Quran, however, it soon became clear that the discovery was in accord with the teaching of the Holy Quran, for one good reason: that the Holy Quran is a revelation for the entire world. By rights the language of this revelation should have been the language of all mankind. Only the first language, the original of all the subsequent languages which evolved out of it, could be described as the language of all mankind. The Holy Quran teaches that a prophet is spoken to by God in the language of those whom he has to address. Thus:
‘And We have not sent any Messenger except with the language of his people.’ – Ibrahim, 5.
The Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) was a prophet to all mankind. By rights, therefore, the revealed guidance he received from God should have been in the universal language of man. Only the first language which man spoke could be described as the language of man. As divine revelation descended on the Holy Prophet in Arabic, Arabic must be the first language of man, the mother of all languages.
As proof of the truth of this discovery Hazrat Mirza Sahib, through the special grace of God, laid down general principles by which a relatively original language could be distinguished from a relatively derived one. On the basis of these principles he was able to say that Arabic was the mother of all languages, the language revealed by God to man, the language from which the many languages of the world grew as branches from a stem. No other language satisfies the criteria of ultimate origin. Hazrat Mirza Sahib planned to write a book on the subject. Unfortunately this could not be completed; however, it contains a statement of general principles which can be worked out in detail and the whole subject expounded in a suitable manner. God willing, I have a mind to work on the broad principles and hints which the Promised Messiah’s unfinished work contains. and to write a systematic account of the origin of languages. In my account I should like to provide detailed proof of this important discovery by the Promised Messiah. I should also like to use, with due criticism, the principles laid down by European experts in the science of languages. ‘And there is no help except what comes from Allah.’ His discovery will, however, remain unparalleled in the history of Arabic studies and will prove a landmark in the new view of Islam which the world is certain to adopt in the future. The discovery will bring added strength to Islam.
Besides these intellectual gifts which the Promised Messiah received so abundantly from God, he also received those spiritual gifts which are the special prerogative of prophets. He invited others to match their intellectual powers with his God-given powers, but nobody accepted the invitation. As I have said, Hazrat Mirza Sahib was a teacher of no new religion or law. In fulfilment of ancient prophecies he came only to serve and propagate the Religion of the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God). To explain and to extend in the world a knowledge of the Holy Quran was his mission and message. After the Holy Quran no new spiritual knowledge can descend from Heaven. All knowledge which man needs for his moral and spiritual advancement is contained in this, the Last Book of God. After the Holy Prophet (on whom be peace and the blessings of God) there can be no new teacher or instructor for mankind. Whoever rises to teach and to instruct must draw on knowledge already imparted by the Holy Prophet. Such a teacher can be a restorer of forgotten treasures, nothing more. His function is to recover or renew, not to create or invent. A revelation of the Promised Messiah says:
‘All blessings are from Muhammad, blessings of God be on him and His peace. Therefore, blessed is he who taught, and blessed is he who learnt.’
Special knowledge of the Holy Book: Twelve discoveries
As the final word on spiritual truths has been said in the Holy Quran, those who are now appointed to any spiritual office can only have the gift of special knowledge of the Holy Quran itself. They cannot have new knowledge of any other kind. The authenticity and the quality of their contact with God will be judged by the quality of their knowledge of the Holy Quran. Such knowledge will have to have the qualities of divine, not merely human, knowledge. It will have to be distinguished by insight into the nature and character of God and into the nature and character of the many stages of spiritual development. It will have to be very different from the logical deductions of philosophers. We find that the Promised Messiah received an abundance of this kind of knowledge. Indeed, so abundant was and is this knowledge from God that we could say, and say truthfully, that through the Promised Messiah the Holy Quran has been revealed again in our time. To say this would be in accord with a Tradition of the Holy Prophet himself, who said:
‘If ever the faith disappears to the skies, a man of Persian origin will restore it back to mankind.’
This Tradition relates to the Promised Messiah, a Persian by descent.
I now proceed to give an account of the special knowledge of the Holy Quran which the Promised Messiah gave to the world. I shall begin with a fundamental aspect of this knowledge – one which proved to be of fundamental importance in his battle with other religions. With this, the victors became the vanquished and the vanquished became the victors. The Holy Quran, thought to be a dead book, became, with the discovery which I will presently describe, a living book again. The enemies of the Holy Book were dispersed.
Before the advent of the Promised Messiah, Muslims in general believed that the truths of the Holy Quran had been explained once and for all by the earlier doctors of Islam and the commentators of the Holy Quran. Nothing new could now be added. To try and add to that knowledge was futile, and even dangerous for the faith. The Promised Messiah, however, was assured by God that the Holy Quran was a world of spiritual knowledge. It was infinite in possible meanings even as the physical world was infinite in properties and attributes. The Holy Quran was as infinite in meaning as nature was in its properties. Science had demonstrated that knowledge of physical nature is boundless. The honey-bee is a minor creation, yet it continues to reveal more and more properties. The secrets contained in the different parts of its body and the functions of those parts seem to have no end. The tiniest blade of grass seems to hide within it an infinity of structure and functions. Why should the Word of God be limited in meaning? Was it to yield all its meaning in one or two generations and nothing in the succeeding generations? No, the Word of God would continue to enrich the world. It would not be like the mine which, once quarried, can be quarried no more. In fact the Word of God would be far more infinite in meaning than the world of external nature is in natural properties. The world of external nature would seem finite in comparison with the infinity of meaning which the Word of God holds within it. If external nature can yield new knowledge from day to day, if philosophy and science can continue to advance, if geology, archaeology, physiology, botany, zoology, astronomy, political science, political economy, sociology, psychology, ethics, and other natural studies can be added to daily, should not the Word of God yield more and more knowledge as we advance from one period of history to another? Why should we think the Word of God so limited or so lifeless that it was destined to display its living power for a time, after which it was to become as good as dead? Should we think that for several hundred years now the Holy Quran has yielded no new knowledge?
The lack of interest in religion and the lack of attachment to God and His teaching which we find today is – directly or indirectly – connected with the progress which science and philosophy have made in our time. If the Holy Quran is the Word of God, His very speech, it is but fitting that we should have derived newer and newer knowledge from it so that spiritual science should have kept pace with natural science. The errors of natural science, its deviations from truth and its exaggerations, should have been corrected, whenever and wherever necessary, by new knowledge drawn from the Holy Quran. When natural knowledge seemed contrary to the teaching of the Holy Quran, tending to cast doubt on its truth, we should have had assurances from the Holy Quran itself that the teaching of the Divine Book is rational and right, and the doubts raised by natural knowledge are due only to lack of reflection.
Prophecies in the Holy Quran about our time
Laying down this general principle Hazrat Mirza Sahib demonstarted by argument that the Holy Quran contains prophecies about our time. It gives not only a general account of the progress we observe today but also an account of some interesting developments which have taken place in our time. The earlier commentators and scholars had no knowledge of the conditions which would arise in our time. Therefore they could not understand the prophetic hints of the Holy Quran which have found fulfillment today. Invariably they interpreted these hints as a description of the Day of Judgment. Not finding it very easy they often distorted the meaning of the Holy Quran.
I quote here twelve signs of our time from the famous chapter Al-Takwir (81;2-13) of the Holy Quran:
When the sun is wrapped up;
And when the stars are obscured;
And when the mountains are made to move;
And the she-camels, ten months pregnant, are abandoned;
And when the beasts are gathered together;
And when the seas are made to flow forth, one into the other;
And when the people are brought together;
And when the girl child buried alive is questioned
About the crime for which she was killed
And when books are spread far and wide
And when the heaven is laid bare;
And when the fire is caused to blaze;
And when the garden is brought near. – Al-Takwir, 2-13.
These verses are a picture of our time. Commentators have been misled by the first lines, ‘When the sun is wrapped up/And when the stars are obscured’ – two signs generally associated with the Day of Judgment. Therefore, the commentators have thought that the rest of the chapter also applies to Doomsday. This is not true, however, because the rest of the chapter is quite obviously a description of conditions and events of our time. The moving of mountains, for instance, the abandonment of camels as beasts of burden, and the regression of civilized man to the level of beasts, the segregation of primitive tribes (as in Australia, the USA, etc.), the splitting of rivers for irrigation purposes, the gathering of people from distant parts of the world, the increased facilities for social and international contacts, the social and legal ban on infanticide, the tremendous increase in the publication of books, periodicals and newspapers, the extraordinary increase in our knowledge of heavenly bodies and (metaphorically) of spiritual truths, the increase in the publication of expositions of the Holy Quran and Islam, the phenomenal advances in sciences of different kinds and the resulting indifference to God, the increase in pleasure-seeking, and, lastly, the drawing near of the garden, or God’s Grace to rehabilitate godliness in the world (faith will revive, opportunities for godly actions will increase, men will again be able to earn the pleasure of God and find access to His Paradise). Are not these Signs of the time in which we live?
The wrapping of the sun and the obscuring of the stars are Signs of the Day of Judgment; to say, therefore, that the chapter relates to that day is not correct, because the chapter goes on specifically to say that the time will mark the abandonment of the camel as a means of transport. Can this be a special sign of the Day of Judgment? No, because on that day not only camels but everything else, animals, human beings, the nearest relations, father, mother, sons, daughters, wife, brothers, sisters, will be abandoned. Of this we have a description in the Holy Quran itself. When disruption on such a vast scale takes place there can be no point in speaking especially of the abandonment of camels. To mention this as an important sign seems ridiculous when the time is one of general and universal disruption. Then the question is What can the gathering of beasts mean as a sign of the Day of Judgment? What can be the meaning of the splitting of waters, the meeting of seas, questioning girl-children? These cannot be signs of the Day of Judgment. Questioning on the subject of girl-children can take place after the Resurrection, not at the time of universal destruction and confusion. The verses which follow the verses already quoted also indicate that the description contained in the chapter is not a description of Doomsday, but of events of this life and of this world. The chapter goes on to say:
‘And I call to witness the night as it passes away and the dawn as it begins to breathe.’ – Al-Takwir, 18-19.
This is a description of the alternation of night and day. Such alternation is possible in a settled universe in which the sun and the stars run their normal courses in their appointed ways. If the sun is wrapped up, as it will be on the Day of Judgment, how can we have the familiar alteration of night with day? The verses do not apply to Doomsday, as many commentators seem to think. They fairly apply to our own time. They are a description of the increase of sin, material advancement and social evil, and of the coming of the Grace of God and the resulting increase of belief and dissolution of doubt.
This is only one example of the prophecies contained in the Holy Quran about changes and events which were due to take place in our time. The example was cited by Hazrat Mirza Sahib himself, but the subject of prophecies of the Holy Quran has been studied further by his followers. In the literature since produced further descriptions of the tendencies – social, political and religious – of our time and of the methods of dealing with those tendencies have been deduced from a careful study of the Holy Quran. A study of these descriptions will convince the most hardened disbeliever that the Holy Quran is a Book of God which contains a description of important world events, past, present and future. I might have gone on to give further examples, but that would be to deviate far from the subject.
Discoveries 2 to 10 about the Holy Quran
The second fundamental discovery about the Holy Quran which we owe to the Promised Messiah is the very important one that the Holy Quran never makes an assertion unless it also points to the reason for that assertion. This discovery is as important as it is true. It has placed in the hands of the followers of the Book a master-key with which they can open the doors to many other important truths. When the followers of the Promised Messiah proceeded to make a study of the Holy Quran, with this unique feature of the Holy Book in view, they found that thousands of assertions which were thought to be unsupported by rational demonstration, and which devotees of the Holy Quran were supposed to believe on authority as assertions of Almighty God, were found to carry their rational basis with them. This was an important revelation. The advance of science and the general development of scientific methods have promoted in our time the type of mind which accepts nothing on mere authority. It was therefore impossible for people in our time to accept statements in the Holy Quran unless they were accompanied by rational justification. With the Promised Messiah’s emphasis on the Holy Quran’s method of offering argument and assertion together, those who loved the Holy Quran were amply satisfied. They felt excited over the appropriateness with which the Holy Quran linked assertion with argument throughout its treatment. Readers no longer felt burdened with its teaching. The Holy Quran did not invite its readers to accept anything on mere authority. It invited them to accept beliefs and injunctions which appealed to their intellect and conscience. The Holy Quran was concerned not to enslave but to enlighten. The Promised Messiah also derived from it arguments for the Existence of God, taking them all from the Holy Text. These arguments cannot be rebutted by modern science. Their effect on the educated section of our generation has been enormous. Many who would have ended up as atheists are returning to God and godly ways. Similarly, objections and difficulties which have been raised about angels were answered by the Promised Messiah out of the Holy Quran. The nature and purpose of the institution of prophets; the criteria of their authenticity; the belief in the Day of Judgment; the purpose of the good life; the value of religious ordinances – imperative, prohibitive and permissive: these and other important subjects were deduced by the Promised Messiah from the Holy Quran. The conceptions and the justification of them were presented with the help of texts drawn from the Holy Book. The Promised Messiah showed convincingly that modern science and philosophy cannot overawe the Holy Quran. They cannot show any contradiction between the Holy Quran and reason. Science was concerned with nature, the handiwork of God. The Quran was the Word of God. Both His handiwork and His Word are His. There can be no contradiction between the two. If ever the Word of God seems to go against facts of nature, it must be because it is not His true word, or if it is it cannot have been properly understood. The real Word of God cannot teach anything against the facts of nature.
The publication of these discoveries about the Holy Quran resulted in a new conviction, a new confidence about the Holy Quran. Followers of the Promised Messiah today are as busy as others in acquiring modern knowledge, knowledge of social sciences and philosophies. But at the same time their convictions about the beliefs and ordinances taught by the Holy Quran are as strong as they were at any time in the history of Islam. These convictions arise not from prejudices or from national or racial feeling, nor from love of tradition, but from reason and deliberation. Followers of the Promised Messiah are ready to prove anything which they believe. Other Muslims find themselves in a strange predicament. To save their belief they either have to remain ignorant of modern science and philosophy, or, against their own better reason and judgment, they have to keep denying and condemning as unbelief whatever modern science and philosophy have to teach. Their religious beliefs flourish in a world of fantasy, or else their minds and judgment are overwhelmed by new knowledge and they have little or no faith left in their hearts. They profess Islam from fear but harbour doubts in their minds.
A third fundamental discovery about the Holy Quran which we owe to Hazrat Mirza Sahib is that where rational reflection gives rise to any doubt or difficulty about a given part of the Holy Quran, the solution to that doubt or difficulty will be found in the Holy Quran itself. Hazrat Mirza Sahib laid great stress on this feature of the Holy Book. Not only did he assert this; he proved it by concrete examples. The scale on which he did this is amazing. Practically all his life he dealt with difficulties raised by Muslims and non-Muslims about the Holy Quran. He derived his replies and his solutions from the Holy Quran itself. He never set assertion against assertion. He never said a thought was hateful because it was contrary to the Holy Quran. He dealt with every difficulty on its merits. He made a proper analysis of everything and then, by arguments drawn from the Holy Quran and acceptable to human reason and judgment, demonstrated the baselessness of those doubts. Few who considered the replies with an unprejudiced mind remained unconvinced or unimpressed.
A fourth discovery was the distinctive characteristics which made the Holy Quran superior to other religious books. Before the time of the Promised Messiah, one only heard of the broad claim that in some way and in some sense the Holy Quran was higher in merit than any other book held sacred by any other religion. The Holy Quran was said to be unique, but nobody could say why and in what sense. Hazrat Mirza Sahib provided the answer, again out of the Holy Quran itself. He returned to this important subject again and again. Those who care to follow his writings will not fail to be captivated by the appeal and persuasiveness of the arguments he put forward. One wishes in fact to give one’s all for the sake of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet through whom mankind received this gift of precious guidance.
A fifth discovery was the multi-sidedness of the Holy Text. A given verse can have a variety of meanings, some near the surface, some deeper, some deeper still. Whatever the intellectual level of the reader, his background or experience, he can find in a given verse a meaning which will suit his understanding, and which he will find true and relevant. The same words serve different purposes and different kinds of persons. A man of ordinary understanding will discover in those words a simple and convincing teaching which he does not find hard to understand and which he has no difficulty at all in believing. Another man, endowed with a slightly higher intellect, will find in the same words a meaning appropriate to his understanding and experience. A man of still higher intellect will find in it a higher meaning. The Holy Quran has something important and relevant to impart to men of all intellectual levels. Those of low intellect will not find the Holy Quran beyond their understanding; those of high intellect will not find the Book beneath theirs. Men of all levels will find the Book significant and important and able to effect their intellectual and moral improvement.
A sixth discovery was that the Holy Quran imparts knowledge about natural phenomena which is both necessary and sufficient for the spiritual advancement of man. It is not a book of spiritual truths only, for it contains other important truths. Insight into these other truths advances with time. At all times in history, therefore, men can turn to the Holy Quran to quicken their faith in God.
A seventh discovery we owe to Hazrat Mirza Sahib is the discovery of principles of interpretation by which we can guard against error in our effort to understand the Holy Quran and to apply it to current difficulties. By observing these principles of interpretation, a reader can also gain insight into truths and facts of which he may have been unaware before. Helped by these principles, a reader of the Holy Quran can experience a new joy every time he turns to a reading of the Holy Book.
The eighth discovery we owe to Hazrat Mirza Sahib is that the Holy Quran contains a systematic account of the stages of spiritual advancement of which human beings are capable. This subject had been dealt with before, but only on the basis of general experience and argument. Mistakes were committed in scholarly expositions. Hazrat Mirza Sahib found the whole subject in the Holy Quran itself. Under divine grace he defined the stages in the spiritual advance of man (from the lowest to the highest) presented systematically by the Holy Book. Following this account, a seeker after truth and spiritual progress can enjoy the faith and fruits peculiar to every stage. Knowledge of spiritual stages in this sense did not exist before. People did read the Holy Book, but they were only able to point to different parts of the text which contained partial references to the subject. Nobody was able to put the parts together and present the subject of spiritual advance as a systematic and consistent whole.
A ninth discovery we owe to Hazrat Mirza Sahib is the discovery of a perfect sequence throughout the Holy Book. The verses of each chapter and the chapters themselves have a rational sequence. Every chapter, every verse in every chapter, and every word in every verse, is in its ideal place. So perfect is the arrangement of words, verses, and chapters, that the internal arrangement of other books seems as nothing compared with the internal arrangement of the Holy Quran. The arrangement in other books is superficial, mostly turning upon the subject in hand, the theme under discussion. The arrangement of the Holy Quran is deep and manifold.
Not only do the words and verses follow an order appropriate to the subject in hand, their arrangement is appropriate from many other points of view. Every passage of the Holy Book holds within it a variety of meaning, each meaning appropriate for a particular purpose or point of view. The arrangement of words and verses in each passage is found appropriate to all sorts of purposes and points of view. Such an arrangement is miraculous. It answers to the needs of the general theme of the passage as well as the special themes which one may find beneath the surface. The beauty of arrangement survives whether we regard the passage from one point of view or another. Such an arrangement cannot be found in any human book.
A tenth discovery we owe to Hazrat Mirza Sahib is that the Holy Quran contains a systematic account of the various degrees and stages of good and evil in moral life. The Holy Book tells us what virtues lead to what other virtues, what vices to what other vices. Knowledge of this kind is of inestimable help in the practical promotion of the good life. The good life grows by stages, and each stage can be defined and described. This makes possible progress in virtue which without this would remain impossible. Such knowledge enables a toiler on the moral path to treat each step forward as preparation for the next. He can also save himself from slipping back any further. Hazrat Mirza Sahib described these things from the Holy Quran and presented them as yet another miracle of the Holy Book. The Holy Book points to springs where the spiritually thirsty may slake their thirst and the ditches and dark alleys which the spiritual wayfarer would wish to avoid.
Surah Fatiha, a synopsis of the Holy Quran
An eleventh discovery of Hazrat Mirza Sahib was that the Surah Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Holy Quran, is a true epitome of the Holy Book, a kind of prologue or prolegomena, the rest being the text and the explanation. Everything that is dealt with in detail in the Holy Book, be it belief or practice or whatever, is presented in essence in the Surah Fatiha. He wrote many commentaries on this short chapter, in which he presented interesting and invigorating themes all derived from this one chapter. The exposition of Islam for the benefit of Muslims as well as others has been immeasurably facilitated by this discovery. Many people prefer synopses to detailed expositions. A detailed account is difficult to follow, a synopsis not so difficult. Hazrat Mirza Sahib showed that almost any subject can be deduced from this one short chapter. Attributes of God, important spiritual truths, important stages in spiritual advancement are all to be found in this first chapter.
These discoveries are of a fundamental character. They are discoveries of principles which have proved indispensable in the exposition of Islam today.
But to Hazrat Mirza Sahib we owe a twelfth discovery regarding the Holy Quran: the meaning of parts and verses of the Holy Text, interpreted with special relevance to present-day needs. Beauty of deduction and interpretation abounds in his works; examples would fill many volumes. A large range of knowledge such as this only points to the source of his abundant grace, which could be none other than the All-Knowing God Himself. Of Him the Holy Quran teaches:
‘And they [men] can encompass nothing of His Knowledge except what He pleases.’ – Al-Baqarah, 256.
It is not for man to discover knowledge beyond his limits. Such knowledge can only come from God. Small wonder we find in the Holy Book oceans of meaning when we read with the help of guiding principles laid down by the Promised Messiah.
Hazrat Mirza Sahib drew repeated attention to a criterion of truth and purity laid down in the Holy Quran:
‘Only the pure of heart will reach it’ [i.e. the Holy Quran]. – Al-Waqiah, 80.
Reaching (lit. ‘touching’) the Holy Book means having access to its inner meaning. No wonder Hazrat Mirza Sahib asked his critics and those who denied him: ‘If I be an impostor, why should I be favoured with ever new knowledge of the Holy Book?’
He invited scholars and doctors of his time to come forward and match their understanding of the Holy Book against his. An umpire would draw a passage out of the Holy Book, then hand it to him and whoever should come forward to compete with him in an effort to draw new meanings out of the Holy Text. It would then become clear who received divine grace in an effort to understand the Holy Quran. This invitation was repeated many times. Nobody came forward. And no wonder, because the understanding of the Holy Quran, others cannot match even the followers of Hazrat Mirza Sahib. I propose to close this argument with a passage from the Persian verse of Hazrat Mirza Sahib commending the beauties of the Holy Quran:
From the pure light of the Quran came the dawn of purity,
And over the buds of hearts blew the morning breeze.
The mid-day sun does not have this light or this lustre,
Even the moon does not show this fascination, this charm.
Joseph remained alone in the bottom of the well,
But this Joseph [the Holy Quran] pulled us all out of the well.
It [the Holy Quran] has derived hundreds of important points from the East of Meanings,
The curve of the crescent has become more curved because of its subtle delicacy.
Knowest thou the glory of the truths [of the Holy Quran]?
Celestial honey drips down with divine inspiration.
When that sun of truth turned to this world,
Every night-loving owl crept into its hollow.
Nobody in this world achieves certainty of believe,
Except he who receives comfort from its face.
He who attained a knowledge of it became a treasure-house of ideas,
He who remained ignorant of it remained ignorant of everything.
The rain of bounty of the Bounteous God came down for his reception,
Woe to him who turned away from it in another direction.
Nothing tempts anyone to evil except the devil in him.
To me he is a man who avoids all evil.
O mine of beauty, I know from where you have come:
You are the Light of the Lorn Who created this world and all.
I love not anyone else, Thou alone art my love,
It is through this love that Thy Light has come to me.