by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as)
The Review of Religions, November 1996
Presented below is a translation of an excerpt by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah and the Promised Reformer of the present age. The original Urdu transcript was first published in the newspaper Al-Badr of 16 and 24 December 1903 and was subsequently incorporated in Malfoozat Vol. 6, P. 201-208. Translated by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad.
Faith is believing at a time when one’s knowledge is not yet complete and there continues a battle between doubts and fears. In other words, despite weakness and the lack of means of certainty, when a person has faith because he accepts a belief considering it to be highly probable, he is included by God among the truthful and the true. Such a person is then granted deeper knowledge (of God). After a person accepts a belief and has faith he is given to drink from the goblet of Irfan, i.e. true knowledge of God. It is for this reason that upon hearing the invitation of the Prophets of God or of those who are commissioned by God, a righteous man does not begin, right from the start, to attack from all sides. On the contrary, he identifies the aspects (of prophecies) relating to one who has come from God that are apparent and are clearly understandable and makes these the basis of his acknowledgement and belief. The aspects not understood by him are viewed, in the best tradition of the righteous, as possibly being in metaphorical language or being a figurative expression. He, thus, lifts out the discrepancies and believes with pure and genuine sincerity. God Almighty then shows mercy and, being pleased with his faith, hears his prayers and opens the door of true knowledge for him and, through revelation and vision and other heavenly signs, takes him to the stage of complete certainty. Conversely, the person who is prejudiced and full of enmity does not behave in this way. He looks down upon the means which could lead to the recognition of truth and turns them into a laughable matter of taunt and jest. Moreover, he uses the aspects which are not yet clear to him as a means of raising objections. Persons of a cruel nature have always adopted such behaviour.
It is apparent, therefore, that the prophecies relating to every Prophet made by the preceding Prophets, have always contained two parts. One part which comprises the Bayyinat and Mohkamat, i.e. the self-evident and unshakeable truths and does not contain any metaphorical expression nor any in need of further interpretation. The second part, however, is of the Mutashabihat, the less apparent, in that it contain some elements which require further interpretation and some which are veiled by the metaphorical and figurative expressions.
In addition to this, at the time of the appearance of Prophets there are also two groups of people who await the fulfilment of the prophecies (relating to the expected Prophet). One group is of those people who have a wholesome nature, who see the self-evident signs and do not delay in their acceptance (of a Prophet). They have faith and they believe. This group also accepts the less clear aspects as being metaphorical or symbolic and await their fulfilment in due course and in this way they attain truth and avoid stumbling. This is how it was at the time of Jesus (as). In the earlier books there were two types of prophecies relating to the Messiah. One was that he would appear in the form of a humble, helpless person and would appear at a time when a foreign power would be in government. Also, that he would be from the progeny of David and would deal with kindness and forbearance and would show signs. The prophecies of the second (metaphorical) type were that he would be a king and would fight like kings and would liberate the Jews from the foreign yoke, but before him would come the Prophet Elijah (as), reappearing in this world, and until the Prophet Elijah (as) came to this world again, the Messiah would not appear. When Jesus (as) came the Jews split into two groups. One group which was very small in number but noting that Jesus (as) was from the progeny of David (as), seeing his humility and truthfulness and observing the heavenly signs and recognising that the age was in need of a Reformer, having assessed the timing indicated in the prophecies, they became certain that this was that Prophet who had been promised to the Israelites. Hence, they believed in Jesus (as) and, being with him, they suffered all manner of atrocities perpetrated against them and, thus, proved the truth of their faith before God the Almighty. But the group comprising the unfortunate did not consider the clear signs and indications. They did not even glance at the state of the age but, being intent on mischief, they picked those aspects of the prophecies which were ambiguous and used them for their point-scoring exercise and in the process rudely cursed the holy person (of Jesus (as)), calling him a heretic and a ‘Kafr’, i.e. a non-believer. They declared that this man gives erroneous interpretation of the holy scriptures and that his interpretation of the second coming of Elijah (as) has no legitimacy and that he has wrongly twisted the evident commandments and turned their meaning away from the obvious. He calls our scholars dishonest, given to show and display, and gives a twisted interpretation of the Holy Book. They mischievously placed stress upon the point that not a jot of the prophecies of the earlier Prophets had come true (in support of Jesus (as)) in that he came neither as a king nor did he fight foreign powers nor did he liberate the Jews from the foreign yoke. Moreover, Prophet Elijah had not even appeared before him. How then could he (Jesus (as)) be the Promised Messiah? In short, the mischief-makers did not wish even to glance in the direction of the light of truth or at the signs of truth. Instead, they repeatedly took the aspects of prophecies which contained symbolic language and presented these in the sense of the words alone (rather than in terms of their true interpretation).
The same difficulty was faced by most Jews at the time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him). They, too, in accordance with their ancestral tradition, did not wish to benefit from the self-evident aspects of the prophecies made by earlier Prophets. Instead, they put before themselves the aspects which were metaphorical and, hence, less apparent or as a result of their placing stress upon prophecies (the wording of) which had undergone interpolation, they deprived themselves of the treasure of obedience to the Holy Prophet (sa) who is the Leader of this world and the next. Most Christians also did the same. The very clear and obvious prophecies contained in the New Testament relating to our Holy Prophet (sa) were not even looked at. Instead, they fell upon the prophecies in need of further interpretation and that is why they were not able to find the path to the real truth. However, from among them those who were the genuine seekers of truth and who were familiar with the style of prophecies which come from God, benefited from the prophecies contained in the New Testament relating to the coming of a noble Prophet and as a result they accepted Islam. Just as from among the Jews (at the time of Jesus (as)) some clung to the prophecies which were self-evident and left alone the less apparent, and these became the people who accepted Jesus (as), the same was true of the noble Christians who entered the fold of Islam in their thousands. In short, from among both these peoples those who lay great stress upon the less clear prophecies in need of further interpretation, and as a result were bent upon rejection, did not benefit from the self-evident prophecies which were clearly fulfiled.
Both these groups (from among the Jews and Christians) have been repeatedly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. This repeated mention was for the reason that the Muslims should learn from the example of the misfortune of those who went before them and that it should act as a warning to them that they should not, like the Jews and the Christians, invite destruction by leaving aside the clear proofs and following, instead, ambiguities. Moreover, that they should not expect the prophecies previously made about the one sent by God to be fulfiled to the letter in all its aspects. Rather, they should be prepared to accept that in accordance with the long standing practice adopted by God, some aspects of such prophecies are in the form of metaphorical and symbolic expression and it is in that form that they are fulfiled. The undiscerning, shallow person, however, continues to wait for the fulfilment of those aspects, and thinks these will be fulfiled at a later stage like the Jews are waiting to this day for the reappearance of the Prophet Elijah (as) and also for the fact that their Messiah would appear as a great king and would give to the Jews government and rule when all these things have already come into being and nearly nineteen hundred years have passed – the one who was to come has come and gone from this world. This point was very useful and was well worth remembering that the prophecies contained in previous (holy) books, or made through prophets, relating to those appointed by God Almighty as Messenger, Prophet, ‘Mohaddis’ or a Reformer, consist of two parts. One part is of the prophecies which are fulfiled in an apparent, evident form and the other part is that which is expressed in a metaphorical and symbolic form and, hence, it is less clear. Consequently, those whose hearts contain crookedness and darkness, follow the less apparent and those who are the true seekers benefit from the clear and unshakeable signs.
The Jews and the Christians have already experienced this tribulation. Muslims who possess the ability to ‘see’ should take a warning from their experience and should not be hasty in falsifying (a man of God) as a result of concentrating only upon the less clear aspects but, instead, should utilise the aspects which are made manifest by God Almighty for their guidance. It is obvious that doubt cannot remove certainty. Hence, the aspects of prophecies which, up to a certain time, have not been fulfiled in a physical form is a matter containing an element of doubt. It is possible, for instance, that like the second coming of Elijah (as), a particular aspect (of a prophecy) has already been fulfiled in a metaphorical or symbolic sense. But the person who continues to wait would be erroneously waiting for it to be fulfiled in its physical form. It is also possible that in the oral traditions containing the prophecies some words have not been safeguarded. The wording of Hadith i.e. oral traditions is not the same as that of revelation which is regularly recited, and many oral traditions are a collection of Ahaad, i.e. a traditions which have only one narrator in each link of chain. Matters of belief is a separate thing – one can believe in whatever one likes but the actual and true conclusion is this that in Ahaad there is greater probability of a change in wording. It is the case that the same Hadith or tradition which reaches us through different means and through different narrators, often undergoes a great deal of change in its wording and order when the origin of all (versions) occurs at the same time from the same lips. It is quite clear, therefore, that discrepancies arise because the style and the use of words varies from narrator to narrator. Moreover, it is also possible that in that part of the prophecies which constitute the element of ambiguity, Mutashabihat, that some prophesied events which are expected to occur simultaneously, in fact manifest themselves in stages or that their manifestation occurs for some other person. This was the case with the prophecy made by our Holy Prophet (sa) that the keys to the treasures of Caesar and Chosroes had been given to him when in fact the Holy Prophet (sa) passed before the manifestation of this prophecy and the Holy Prophet (sa) neither saw the treasures of Caesar and Chosroes nor the keys to them. However, because it was destined that Hadhrat Omar (the second Caliph) should be given the keys, as the person of Hadhrat Omar symbolically represented the person of the Holy Prophet (sa). That is why, in the realm of revelation, the hand of Omar was declared to be the hand of the Holy Prophet (sa). In short, it is at this juncture that those prone to deception are deceived. It is their misfortune that they expect every part of a prophecy to be fulfiled in its physical form. However, when the time comes and someone appears who has been appointed by God, they do not care in the least for the signs which become apparent but those which have not been physically fulfiled or those which have not yet been fulfiled, these are presented repeatedly (by way of objection). This was the real reason for the destruction of the previous peoples who did not accept true prophets. The actual reason for their destruction was the fact that in their own estimation they considered themselves to be very clever but this practice of theirs kept them away from accepting the truth.
It is a strange fact that whatever lack of understanding regarding prophecies has been shown in the past by the Jews and the Christians, as a result of which they failed to accept the truth, the same is the treatment being meted out to me. It was necessary that according to the ancient pattern set by God, the prophecies which were made regarding the Promised Messiah should also consist of two parts – one based on Bayyinat, the clear and evident aspects which were to be fulfiled in their apparent form and the other, less apparent, Mutashabihat, expressed in the form of the metaphorical and the symbolic. It is regrettable that these people (the Muslims) have followed in the path of error of the previous people and in their stubbornness regarding the less clear elements, they also reject the clear and evident aspects (of prophecies) which have been very clearly fulfiled. (They have chosen to do this), when righteousness demands that they should remember the afflictions suffered by previous peoples. They ought not to have placed such emphasis upon the ambiguous elements but should have benefited from the clear proofs, i.e. the signs which were clear as daylight. But they do not do this. On the contrary, when those prophecies of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and of the Holy Qur’an, (relating to the Promised Messiah), a major part of which have been clearly fulfiled, are presented to them, they carelessly turn away from them and present the aspects of the prophecies which are in a metaphorical form and they ask why has this aspect not been physically fulfiled? Yet, when the deeds of the previous people are mentioned who, in exactly the same manner, ignored the proven aspects and rejected the truth as a result of their insistence upon the physical fulfilment of prophecies which contained metaphorical language, these very people deny that they would have acted in that manner had they lived in that age when they are, in fact, acting in exactly the same way as those who falsified (Prophets) previously. They do not accept the signs and the proven indications from which comes the light which enables one to accept. Instead they take hold of the Istia’arat, Mujazat and Mutashabihat, i.e. the metaphorical, the symbolic and the ambiguous elements, and roam around with these in hand and deceive the common people by saying that these aspects have not been fulfiled. (They do this) when, according to the practice adopted by God, it was necessary that those aspects should not be fulfiled in the way that they think. i.e. in the apparent, physical form. Of course, one part was fulfiled in the physical form and one part was fulfiled in a less obvious form but the hearts of the prejudiced people did not wish to accept.
They turn away from every proof they see. They take all signs of God to be man’s deception. When they hear the revelations of God who is the Most Holy, they say it is a man-made false claim. They cannot, however, give a response to this (question): Has a false claimant ever been allowed the same (length) of time to spread his false claims about God that a true recipient of divine revelation is allowed from God? Has God not declared that those who falsely claim to be recipients of divine revelation will be destroyed and those who attribute falsehoods to God will be caught? It is contained in the Torah also that a false prophet will be murdered and it is also contained in the New Testament that a false (claimant) will quickly perish and his party will disband. Is there a single example of a false claimant who pretends to have received divine revelation and, thus, lies about God, who has attained the age, during his false claim, that this humble one has attained during the period of receiving divine revelation? If there is an example of this, let it be presented. I state it with a firm claim that from the beginning of the world to this day not a single example will be found!
Is there any one who is prepared to benefit from this definite and unshakeable proof and fear the Almighty God? I don’t say that the worshippers of idols do not attain a long life nor that atheists or those who say ‘Ana-al-Haq’ are caught more quickly. There is another world for the punishment of such errors and for going astray. But, I say this that the person who makes a false statement against God Almighty to the effect that he has received revelation from God when he, in fact, knows that he has not received any revelation from God, such a person is caught quickly and the days of his life are numbered. The Holy Qur’an and the New Testament and the Torah all bear this witness. The intellect also bears this witness. No one, disbelieving this, can present any example opposed to this from any history. None can show that a person who falsely claims to be the recipient of divine revelation can spread his false claims in the world for twenty-five or eighteen years and falsely calls himself the beloved of God, the appointed of God and a messenger of God and for years improvises false revelations in support of this and publicises them and despite these ‘criminal’ activities he is not caught.
Is it expected that someone can give the answer to our question?
Most certainly not! Their hearts know that they are incapable of answering these questions but still they do not desist from denying. In fact, there are many proofs which have made the argument complete and clear but they are in a state of slumber.