The True Philosophy of Salvation and IntercessionNo Comments | April 2013
We present extracts from the writings of the Promised Messiahas and Imam Mahdi, whose advent had been eagerly awaited by the followers of the main religions of the world.
The question of salvation and intercession is a grand religious subject and the whole purpose of following a religion culminates in it. For testing the truth of a religion, it is a clear and open criterion through which it can be known with full satisfaction that such and such religion is true and from God. It is absolutely correct that a religion which has not set forth this question properly or which is unable to show among its followers with clear distinction present samples of those who have attained salvation, needs no other argument to establish its falsehood; but the religion which has correctly displayed the true reality of salvation and has put forth such men in its present stage, into whom the spirit of salvation has been fully breathed, has set a seal on its being true and from God.
It is quite clear that man by nature feels that he stands in need of a strong hand to help him out of hundreds of kinds of negligence, veils, onslaughts of the self, weakness, and ever-prowling darkness, as well as continuous fears and doubts from the various kinds of worldly trials and tribulations. Inasmuch as man is weak by nature, he cannot for one moment trust himself to emerge from the darkness of the ego. This is the testimony of human conscience. Besides, common sense also demands that an intercessor is needed for salvation, for God Almighty is in the highest station of Holiness and Purity, and man is in the extreme pit of darkness and sinfulness, and on account of lack of relationship and resemblance, the average human person is not fit that he should attain salvation by receiving Divine Grace directly. Therefore, Divine Wisdom and Mercy demands that some perfect individuals, who possess a special purity in their nature, should serve as a means of approach between mankind and God Almighty. They should be people whose natures should have taken on a portion of heavenly qualities and a portion of earthly qualities, so that on account of the appropriateness of their heavenly qualities they should receive Divine Grace, and on account of their earthly qualities, they should convey this grace, which they have received from above, to mankind.
It is quite correct to say that men of this type, on account of the perfection of their heavenly and earthly qualities, possess a special distinction among men. They are in a way a different kind of creation. The eagerness that they possess for the manifestation of God’s glory and greatness, and the faithfulness with which their hearts are filled, and the upsurge of sympathy for human beings that they are bestowed, is such an extraordinary matter that it is difficult for others to imagine. It needs to be remembered, however, that all these persons are not equal in rank and that some are at a higher level of the natural superiorities, and others are at a lower level and still others at a level that is even lower.
The pure conscience of a reasonable person can easily understand that the question of intercession is not something fake or artificial. On the contrary, there are built-in precedents thereof in the Divine scheme of things. The law of nature, too, bears witness to it. The philosophy of intercession can be understood as follows. The root word for intercession in Arabic [shuf‘a] means a pair. So intercession [shafa‘at] indicates that a necessary quality of an intercessor is that he should be related to both sides. On one side, his soul should have a strong relationship with God Almighty as if through perfect union he formed a pair and a connecting link with the Divine, and on the other, he should also be closely attached to mankind as if he were part of their limbs. In short, for intercession to take place, both of these elements are necessary.
That is why Divine Wisdom created Adam in such manner that from the very beginning he established these two relationships in his nature. One relationship was established with God as is said in the Holy Qur’an:
When I have perfected him (Adam) and have breathed into him My spirit, do ye all angels fall down in prostration at once.
This shows that with the creation of Adam, God established a relationship with him by breathing into him of His spirit. This was done so that man should have a natural relationship with God. In the same way, it was necessary that Adam should have a natural relationship with mankind; as they would be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, they would partake of the spirit that was breathed into Adam and thus Adam would naturally be their intercessor. It is necessary that a person who has descended from him should partake in the righteousness that has been bestowed upon Adam by the breathing into him of the spirit, as is obvious that the young of an animal partake of the qualities and actions of their father. This is also the essence of intercession that a natural heir should partake of the qualities of his ancestor. As we have explained, the root word for intercessor in Arabic derives from pair, which also means consort. Thus, a person who is by nature the consort of another will partake of the qualities of the latter.
This is the basis of the inheritance of qualities. A man’s child partakes of human qualities and the foal of a horse partakes of the qualities of a horse. In other words, this inheritance is deriving benefit from intercession. As the essence of intercession is the relationship of consorts, a person who desires to benefit from the intercession of another must have a natural relationship with that person so that he should be given whatever has been bestowed upon the nature of the other. This relationship subsists in human nature as a gift, that one person is part of another, and it can also be promoted by acquisition. When a person desires that there should be an increase in the natural love and sympathy that he has for mankind, such an increase can be achieved in proportion to the circle of his nature. In the same way, love surges up in the heart of one person for another and increases to such a degree that the lover can find no comfort without the company of the beloved, and in the end the intensity of his love affects the heart of the other person also. He who loves another to the extreme is the one who wishes him well sincerely and in a perfect manner.
Thus, love is at the root of intercession when it is accompanied by a natural relationship, for without a natural relationship the perfection of love, which is a condition of intercession, is not possible. In order to invest human nature with this relationship, God Almighty did not create Eve separately from Adam, but created her from Adam’s rib as is said in the Holy Qur’an:
Which means that from Adam We created His mate Eve. [Ch.4:V.2]
God created Eve as Adam’s mate from Adam so that Adam’s relationship to her and her progeny should be natural and not artificial. This was done so that the relationship and sympathy between the children of Adam should be lasting, inasmuch as natural relationship is lasting and non-natural relationship is not lasting for it lacks the attraction that characterises natural relationships. Thus, God created both kinds of relationship naturally that Adam should have; with God and with mankind.
It is thus obvious that the perfect man, who is capable of being an intercessor, must be one who partakes perfectly of both these relationships and without this, man cannot be perfect. After Adam also, the way of God was that both these relationships were considered necessary for a person who was to be an intercessor, that is to say, one relationship was that the heavenly spirit was breathed into him and God established such a relationship with him as if He descended upon him, and the second relationship was that of the consortship of mankind, which was strengthened between Adam and Eve and mutual love and sympathy that shone forth between them more brightly than between others. It was because of this that these people were attracted to their wives. And this is the most apparent sign that they possess the spirit of sympathy for mankind. This is indicated by the Hadith:
That is to say, the person who is most kind to mankind can only be the one who is kind to his wife. For he who treats his wife harshly cannot possibly behave beneficently towards others, inasmuch as God, having created Adam, made his wife the first object of his love. Therefore, he who does not love his wife or has no wife to love, cannot attain the status of a perfect man and lacks one of the conditions of intercession. Even if he is sinless, he is not capable of intercession. He who marries a woman lays the foundation for himself of sympathy with mankind, for a wife becomes the means of establishing a wide circle of relationships and, when children are born, this circle is widened even more. The children in turn find wives and thus their children too come to have grandmothers and uncles of their own. In this way, such a person becomes habituated towards love and sympathy and the circle of this habit being extended, his sympathy is extended towards everyone. But those who are reared in celibacy, find no opportunity of extending this habit and their hearts are left dry and hard.
Sinlessness has nothing to do with intercession, because Ismat—sinlessness—only means negation or avoidance of sin. The definition of sin is that a person should earn punishment by deliberately breaking the commandments of God. It is thus clear that sinlessness and intercession are not interrelated for minor children and congenital idiots are also sinless for they are not capable of wilful disobedience, nor do they earn punishment in the estimation of God on account of any action of theirs. They are entitled to be considered sinless, but are they entitled to be intercessors for mankind and to be called saviours?
As I have just explained, it is necessary for an intercessor that he should have a deep relationship with God, as if God has descended into his heart and his humanness having died he has become the subject of heavenly manifestations, and his soul has melted and flowed like water towards God and has arrived at the extreme point of nearness to Him. It is also necessary for an intercessor that his heart should be overpowered with sympathy for the one for whom he desires to intercede, and the intensity of his agony should make him feel as if his limbs are separating themselves from his body and his senses are all scattered. His sympathy should carry him to a stage that exceeds that of father and mother and every sharer in sorrow. When these two conditions are created in a person, he is united on the one side with the heavenly station and on the other with the earthly station. Then both sides of the scale are in balance, that is to say, there is a perfect manifestation of the heavenly and also a perfect manifestation of the earthly and he is thus suspended midway between the two.
Referring to the Holy Prophet’ssa station of intercession, the Holy Qur’an affirms his status as the perfect man by saying:
This means that: The Holy Prophetsa ascended towards God and approached as near to Him as was possible and acquired all the perfections of nearness and partook fully of the heavenly station, and then leaned perfectly towards the earthly station and arrived at the extreme point of service and worship and partook fully of the pure essentials of humanness, namely love and sympathy for mankind, denoting earthly perfection. Thus, he arrived at the point of perfection on the one side in the love of God and, on the other, in the love of mankind. As he approached God fully and then approached mankind fully it became the case of one chord between two bows and thus fulfilled the condition for intercession. Indeed, in His Word, God bore witness for him that he occupied a place between God and mankind like a common chord between two bows.
At another place, describing his nearness to God, the Holy Qur’an says:
That is to say: The Holy Prophetsa was commanded to inform people that he had become completely freed from himself and that all his worship was wholly for God…
This verse indicates that the Holy Prophetsa had become so devoted to and lost in God that every breath of his life and even his death had become wholly God’s, and that his ego and creation and means had no part in his being, and that his soul was prostrated so sincerely at the threshold of God that nothing else had the slightest share in it.
As the love of God, and arriving at a high station of nearness to Him, is a matter of which other people cannot be aware, God Almighty made manifest such of the actions of the Holy Prophetsa as show that he had adopted God in preference to everything else, and that every particle of his was so saturated with the love and greatness of God that his being was like a mirror for the full observation of Divine manifestations. The effects of the perfect love of God, which can possibly be imagined, were all displayed in the Holy Prophetsa.
[The Review of Religions—Urdu, Vol. I, pp.175-184 (English Translation: Essence of Islam, Vol. 1, pp. 226-235]