The Promised Messiahas wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic. The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. Here, The Promised Messiahas elaborates on the subject of the need for Prophets.
Extracts from the Essence of Islam, Vol.III, pp. 111-123.
The Need for Prophets
God Almighty has bound up belief in His own existence with belief in His Messengers. The reason for this is that man is invested with the capacity of believing in the Unity of God as stone is invested with the capacity of flaring up; and a Messenger is like the flint which elicits the spark from the stone by striking it.
It is, therefore, not possible that without the flint, that is to say without a Divine Messenger, the spark of the Unity of God may be ignited in a human heart. It is only a Divine Messenger who brings down Tauhid [belief in the Unity of God] upon the earth and it is achieved only through him. God is hidden and displays His countenance only though a Messenger.
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, p. 131
Prophets are a Manifestation of Divine Unity
The misconception that belief in the Unity of God is enough for the salvation of man, and that it is not necessary to believe in a Prophet, is utterly absurd. People who entertain such a belief seek to separate the soul from the body. Belief in the Unity of God can only be established through a Prophet, and is not possible without believing in him. If a Prophet, who is the source of belief in God’s Unity, is excluded, Divine Unity cannot be upheld. A Prophet alone is the cause and source and father and fountain and perfect manifestation of the belief in the Unity of God. Through him alone can one behold the hidden countenance of God and realise His existence. On the one hand, the Divine is eminently Self-Sufficient and cares not whether anyone is guided or goes astray; on the other, He desires that He should be known and that His creatures should derive benefit from His eternal mercy. He, therefore, manifests Himself to him whose heart is charged to the highest degree with the natural desire of attaining nearness to the Holy One, and is also filled with utmost sympathy for mankind. God displays to him the light of His being and eternal attributes. In this manner, the person who possesses such superior nature—who, in other words, is called a Prophet—is drawn towards God. On account of the extreme eagerness with which his heart is charged with sympathy for mankind, he desires by his spiritual inclination, supplication and humility, that others too should recognise the God Who has been revealed to him so that they too may attain salvation. He sincerely offers the sacrifice of his own self and, out of the desire that mankind may be revived, strives to the utmost degree and is always ready to suffer many deaths, as is indicated in the verse:
God is Self-Sufficient, and doesn’t stand in need of creatures, but in view of the grief, sorrow, torment, humility, extreme devotion, truthfulness and integrity of such a person, God manifests Himself through His signs to the eager hearts of men.
As a result of the earnest supplications of such a person, which create a tumultuous uproar in heaven, Divine signs descend upon the earth like rain and extraordinary happenings are witnessed, which reveal the countenance of God and the world bears witness that God exists. Had the Holy Prophetsa not turned to God with so much supplication, entreaty and earnestness, and had he not offered the sacrifice of his self and accepted a hundred deaths at every step, Divine countenance would never have been revealed to the world, because God Almighty, due to His Self-Sufficiency, is completely independent. He says:
That is: ‘Allah is independent of all the worlds;’ and ‘It is Our eternal law that those who strive after Us and seek Us with the utmost effort, We show them Our way.’ The first and foremost in offering sacrifices in the cause of Allah, are the Prophets. Everyone strives for himself but Prophets strive for others. People sleep, but the Prophets stay awake on their behalf. People laugh and the Prophets weep for them. They willingly bear hardship for the deliverance of mankind. They do this so that God may so manifest Himself that people should be convinced that He exists, and His existence and Unity may be clearly perceived by them and through such perception mankind might attain salvation. Thus the Prophets suffer death out of their sympathy for their enemies. And when their agony reaches its climax and heaven is filled with their tormented supplications, God Almighty exhibits the brightness of His countenance and manifests His existence and His Unity to mankind through powerful signs. Thus there is no doubt that the knowledge of God and of His Unity is gained by man only through a Prophet and cannot be achieved otherwise. The highest example in this regard was set by our Holy Prophetsa, who lifted a whole people out of the filth in which they were steeped, and conveyed them to a garden. He provided excellent spiritual food and drink for those who were on the point of death because of spiritual starvation. He raised them from their animal condition to the condition of man, and then civilised them, and made them perfect, and exhibited so many signs that they were enabled to see God, and brought about such a change in them that they began to shake hands with angels. No other Prophet was able to bring about such a complete change in his people, for their followers did not achieve perfection.
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 116-118
Prophets Demonstrate God’s Existence
It should be remembered that it is the Prophets (peace be on them) who demonstrate the existence of God and teach people His Unity. If those holy ones had not appeared, it would have been impossible to discover the straight path with certainty. Though a person of sincere nature, possessing sane reason can, by reflecting on the universe and observing its perfect and well-established order, conclude that there ought to be a Creator of this well-ordered universe, however, there is a world of difference between ‘ought to be’ and ‘is’.
The Prophets alone (peace be on them) established through thousands of signs and miracles that the Transcendent Being Who comprises all power does in fact exist. Indeed, the degree of comprehension that the need of a Creator may be perceived by the observation of the universe is also a reflection of the rays of Prophethood. Had there been no Prophets, no one would have achieved this degree of reason.
This may be understood through the contemplation that, though there is water below the surface of the earth, the maintenance of that water depends upon the water that descends from the sky. When there is a long drought, the underground water dries up and when rain descends the underground water also begins to well up. In the same way, with the advent of a Prophet, reason—which is sub-surface water—is sharpened and improved; and when over a long period no Prophet is raised the sub-surface water of reason begins to decline and becomes muddied and the worship of idols and all manner of paganism and vice abound. The eye possesses the faculty of sight, yet it needs the light of the sun to be able to see. In the same way, human reason, which resembles the eye, needs the light of the sun of Prophethood. And when that sun disappears, reason becomes confused and dark; just as you cannot see with the eye alone, you cannot see without the light of Prophethood.
As the recognition of God always depends upon the recognition of a Prophet, it is not possible to recognise the Unity of God without him. A Prophet is a mirror for the observance of the Divine. God can only be seen through this mirror. When God Almighty designs to reveal Himself to the world, He raises a Prophet, who is a manifestation of Divine powers, and sends down His revelation to him and manifests His Divine powers through him. It is then that the world comes to know that God exists.
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 114-116
Blessings of Obedience to the Holy Prophetsa
Know well that Prophets do not appear for mere ostentation or show. If people do not derive any spiritual benefit from them and they do not prove to be a source of grace, it would have to be confessed that their advent is only for show, and that it is without any meaning; but that is not so. Prophets are a source of many blessings and abundant grace. With his coming, a fountain of virtue springs forth. Just as mankind derives benefit from the light of the sun and its benefit does not stop at any point, in this way, the sun of the grace and blessing of the Holy Prophetsa continues to shine and to bestow benefits upon the fortunate ones. That is why God Almighty has said:
This means: ‘Tell them, If you want to become the loved ones of Allah, then follow me, Allah will then love you.’ True obedience to the Holy Prophetsa makes a person beloved of God, and becomes a means for the forgiveness of sins.
—Malfuzat, vol. 3, p. 55
Belief in God cannot be Perfect without Belief in Prophets
QUESTION: Although we believe that mere verbal profession of Tauhid [Divine Unity] cannot ensure salvation and that none can attain salvation by departing from obedience to the Holy Prophetsa, yet to dispel any possible doubt, we would like to know the true meanings of the verses cited by Abdul Hakim Khan1, for instance:
ANSWER: These verses of the Holy Qur’an do not mean that salvation can be achieved without believing in the Holy Prophetsa. They lay down that salvation cannot be achieved without believing in God—Who has no associate—and in the Last Day; and that belief in God cannot be perfect without belief in Prophets, inasmuch as Prophets illustrate the attributes of God and the true comprehension of God Almighty, without which belief remains imperfect.
For instance, the Divine attributes that He speaks, hears, knows the unseen, has power to show mercy and to inflict punishment, cannot be understood except through a Messenger of God. If these attributes are not demonstrated through testimony, the existence of God is not positively established and belief in God has no meaning. A person who believes in God must believe in His attributes also, and for such belief he must believe in the Prophets.
For instance, God’s attribute of speech can only be appreciated by proof of His word and it is only Prophets who furnish proof of His word.
The Holy Qur’an comprises two types of verses. One type is Muhkamat [fundamental and explicit], for instance the verse:
That is: ‘There are those who do not want to believe in both Allah and His Messengers and seek to make a distinction between Allah and His Messengers and say: We believe in God, but not in His Messengers; and seek to separate Allah from His Messengers. There are others who believe in Allah but not the Prophets, or they believe in some Prophets but not in others and desire to adopt a position between the two; these indeed are the confirmed disbelievers. We have prepared a humiliating punishment for such disbelievers.’…
The second type of verses are Mutashabihat [allegorical] which have very subtle meanings. Their true meaning is revealed only to those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. Those whose hearts are afflicted with hypocrisy do not care to follow what is Muhkamat [fundamental] and seek to follow only that which is allegorical. The Word of God is full of Muhkamat [fundamental] verses, whose meaning is clear, and the neglect of which occasions great harm. For instance, one who believes in God but does not believe in His Messengers has to repudiate Divine attributes. This is illustrated by the new sect of Brahmus who proclaim that they believe in God but do not believe in the Prophets. They repudiate the Word of God, while it is obvious that if God hears He also speaks. If His speaking is not established, His hearing is also not proved. Thus these people become like atheists by repudiating Divine attributes.
Divine attributes are eternal and ever-lasting. They are demonstrated only by Prophets. The denial of the attributes of God invariably leads to the denial of God’s existence. This shows that belief in God necessarily implies belief in the Prophets (peace be on them), without which belief in God is imperfect and incomplete. The fundamental verses not only abound in number, but are also supported by the continuous testimony of the Prophets. Anyone who studies the Holy Qur’an and the books of other Prophets will find that they insist upon belief in the Messengers of God as much as belief in God Himself.
If the allegorical verses are interpreted in a sense which is contrary to the meaning of the fundamental verses, great harm would ensue therefrom and many other verses would have to be rejected. No contradiction is possible in the Word of God; therefore the implicit must be reconciled with the explicit…In the Holy Qur’an, the word ‘Allah’ has throughout been used as connoting the Being Who sends Prophets and Messengers and Books, Who is the Creator of heaven and earth and possesses such and such attributes and is One without associate. It is true that those who have had no access to God’s word and are utterly unaware of it, will be judged according to their degree of knowledge, reason and intelligence, but it is not possible that they should achieve the grades and ranks which will be bestowed upon those who follow the Holy Prophetsa. The blind obviously cannot arrive at the high stations of those who are guided by the light of Prophethood. This is Divine grace, which He bestows on whom He wills.
Now, observe the outrage that is committed by Mian [Mr] Abdul Hakim who disregards hundreds of verses of the Holy Qur’an which proclaim emphatically that the profession of belief in the Unity of God alone is not enough for the achievement of salvation and that faith in the Holy Prophetsa is also essential; and, like the Jews, he twists the meanings of two or three concise verses and insists upon his own interpretation. Every sensible person can realise that if those verses mean what Abdul Hakim opines, then it is goodbye to Islam and the commandments like prayer and fasting, etc., which have been taught by the Holy Prophetsa are rendered vain and meaningless.
If it were true that everyone can attain salvation through his fancied version of the Unity of God, then the rejection of Prophets and the repudiation of faith would be no sin and would do no harm. However, there is not a single verse in the Holy Qur’an which relieves a Muslim from obedience to the Holy Prophetsa. Even if these two or three verses which Mian Abdul Hakim relies upon had appeared to him contradictory to hundreds of verses of the contrary import, he should have subordinated them to the large number of other verses, and should not have disregarded the latter and thus advanced towards apostasy. In truth there is no contradiction in the word of Allah. It is only a case of deficient understanding and murky disposition. We should interpret the Word of God Almighty, as He Himself has interpreted it and should not, like the Jews, place another construction upon it.
It has always been the way of the Divine Word and of His Messengers, that they seek to guide a hardened disbeliever by instructing him that if he believes in God, and loves Him, and accepts Him as One without associate, he will surely attain salvation. The purpose of this is that if such a person would believe truly in God, he would be enabled by God to accept Islam. The Holy Qur’an, which these people ignore, clearly affirms that true faith in God leads to faith in the Holy Prophetsa, and such a person becomes ready to accept Islam.
My own method also is that when an Arya, a Brahmu, a Christian, a Jew, or a Sikh, or any other non-Muslim persists in wrong reasoning, I tell him that such discussion will not help him in any way but that if he sincerely believes in God, He will Himself open the way of salvation to him. But by this I do not at all mean that salvation can be achieved without following the Holy Prophetsa; what I mean is that if a person believes sincerely in God, God will open his heart to belief in the Holy Prophetsa.
It should be remembered that, in the first place, the true Unity of God cannot be appreciated without following the Holy Prophetsa. As I have just mentioned, Divine attributes, which cannot be isolated from the Being of God, cannot be observed except through the mirror of the revelation vouchsafed to a Prophet. They are illustrated in practice only by a Prophet. But even if someone should acquire an imperfect appreciation of them, it would not be altogether free from traces of polytheism till such a one is led by God into Islam by accepting His total obedience.
Whatever a believer receives from God Almighty through God’s Messenger is a heavenly gift, which is not tainted by his own pride and self-esteem, but whatever a person achieves through his own effort is always affected by some taint of polytheism. That is why Messengers have been sent to teach the true Unity of God, and mankind has not been left dependent upon reason alone so that the Unity of God should remain pure and should not be tainted with human conceit. This is why erring philosophers have never been able to grasp the pure Unity of God, inasmuch as they are afflicted with pride, arrogance and conceit, and pure Unity demands the negation of the self. Such negation cannot be effected unless a person sincerely believes that it is a Divine gift in which his effort has no part.
For instance, one farmer keeps awake throughout the night and irrigates his field with great hardship, while another one sleeps all night and a cloud arises and rain fills his field with water. Would these two be equal in their gratitude to God? Indeed not. He whose field is irrigated without his labour would be more grateful than the other. That is why the Word of God has repeatedly admonished man to be grateful to God, who sends Messengers to teach him the Unity of God.
—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 22, pp. 172-179
Why Do Prophets Have Needs Like Other People?
I wish to explain why Prophets feel the need of things like the help of other people. God Almighty has power to safeguard them against all needs. These needs arise so that they might manifest examples of dedication to God, like that of Abu Bakrra, and faith in the existence of God Almighty may be generated, and such dedicated people may serve as a sign of God and the world may witness examples of that hidden delight and love for the sake of which a loved and desired thing like wealth can be easily and cheerfully sacrificed. After the sacrifice of wealth and riches, these people are granted the power and courage to complete their dedication to God by sacrificing their very lives for Him.
Thus the true purpose of the Prophets, peace be on them, feeling the need of things is that they may inculcate the discarding of desire and love for mortal things and be invested with a delicious faith in the existence of God Almighty and develop the spirit of self sacrifice in the cause of the promotion of the welfare of their fellow beings. This holy group subsists under the care of the Master of the treasuries of the heaven and earth and can encounter no real need. Their needs are encountered for the perfection of their teaching and promotion of mankind’s faith and high qualities.
—Malfuzat, vol. 2, pp. 96-97
1. Abdul Hakim Khan was a Muslim, who turned apostate. [Publisher]
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