Dreams, Visions and Revelation

ESSENCE OF ISLAM – Part 24 What is Revelation?

the Second Manifestation of Divine glory contained in the verse in the Holy Qur’an revealed in Madinah: Allah has promised to those among you [the followers of Muhammad(saw)] who believe and do good works that He will surely make them Successors in the earth, as He made Successors from among those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely give them in exchange security and peace after their fear. They will worship Me, and they will not associate anything with Me. Then whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious. (Ch.24:V.56) If a person reflects upon the above verse, then he will realise that God Almighty has clearly promised Muslims a permanent succession, since the verse does not restrict itself to any particular time period. The only requirement for them is to believe and do good works, i.e. accept His Prophet and following his guidance. The institution of Khilafat also reminds us that man is mortal, but such limitations have no bearing on God’s design that ensures the continued success of His Prophets. Once a Prophet has passed away, the bright light of his teaching is enveloped by darkness. His opponents think that this is the end of his chapter. In this vacuum, the Prophet’s followers are immersed in fear, but God manifests His glory once again. A bright moon appears that comforts the believers. The works undertaken by the Prophet are thus completed by his Successors or Khalifasi who follow him as evidenced by the Khilafat Rashidah, the Rightly-Guided Khalifas who appeared after Prophet Muhammad(saw). As mentioned earlier there is no time limit for Khilafat in Islam and it would be a great folly to say that this bounty was only limited to a period of thirty years after the demise of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). Many verses of the Holy Qur’an and Traditions give Muslims the glad tiding of a permanent Khilafat. Islam is not a dead religion whose blessings are confined to the past. Its blessings continue. The Mosaic dispensation, that was sent to guide the Israelites, had this blessing for hundreds of years so it would have been illogical if the followers of Prophet Muhammad(saw), a Messenger who was sent as a mercy unto all mankind, should have been deprived of this blessing after a mere thirty years. 3 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – October 2007 Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 3 Khilafat is a kingpin of Islamic unity and the driving force of a discipline based on absolute obedience and loyalty that alone can bring about the true progress of Islam. There are many in the Muslim world, like the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, who have tried to revive Khilafat but their attempts have failed because they are trying to put the cart before the horse. Like many before them, they believe that God spoke before but does not reveal Himself anymore. But once you deprive yourself this bounty, you do not merit any other and you certainly do not merit Khilafat, as that is an office that provides a living example of communion with the Divine. It is also a holy manifestation that is established only by a Prophet of God and not by man. It is therefore impossible for this to be revived by human effort alone – it necessitates Divine help and Divine converse. The perpetuity of this divine bounty was re-established, as prophesied by the Holy Prophet(saw), by the Promised Messiah(as) who is the prophet of the latter days and was tasked with Islam’s revival. Our special issues in this and the next few months will focus on the life, tenure and principal achievements of those who succeeded the Holy Prophet(saw) and the Promised Messiah(as). We are confident that our readers will find these editions highly informative. By way of a foretaste read our lead article in this edition that focuses on the concept of Khilafat in Islam. Mansoor Shah i. The Arabic word for a Successor or Vicegerent is Khalifa. The plural is Khulafa, but in these editions we have permitted the use of the word Khalifas. Another meaning of Khalifa is a great King. A third meaning is that Imam above whom there is no other Imam. According to Aqrab Al- Muwarid, one meaning of Al-Khilafa (the office held by the Khalifa) is Al- Amara (government or rule); or An- Niyaba, meaning to undertake a task being performed by someone who is not present then or who has died and his work needs to be continued as his deputy or vicegerent or successor. We have used the word Khilafat in lieu of the slightly less well-known Arabic word Khilafa sometimes spelt as Khilafah for the institution or the office held by the Khalifa; we have refrained from the anglicised use of the word Caliph unless part of a quotation. 4 EDITORIAL The Review of Religions – October 2007 Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 4 5The Review of Religions – October 2007 What is Revelation? By revelation is not meant something that arises in the mind as a result of thinking and reflection, like that which a poet experiences in writing his verses. He writes a verse and reflects about the next one and it suddenly arises in his mind. This is not revelation; it is a consequence of thought and reflection, which flows from the law of nature. Anyone who thinks about good things or evil things finds that something arises in his mind in consonance with his thinking and his search. For instance, a good and righteous person writes some verses in support of truth and another one, who is wicked, supports falsehood in his verses and abuses the righteous. Each of them will produce some verses and it should be no matter for surprise that the enemy of the righteous who writes in support of falsehood may, on account of greater practice, write better verses than the other one. Thus, if anything arising in the mind were to be called revelation, a wicked poet, who is the enemy of truth and of the righteous and always abuses the truth and indulges in imposture, would be deemed the recipient of Divine revelation. Works of fiction contain many affecting passages and the minds This series sets out, in the words of the Promised Messiah(as), Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a summary of his exposition of four outstanding topics: ISLAM; ALLAH, THE EXALTED; THE HOLY PROPHET(saw) and THE HOLY QUR’AN. The original compilation, in Urdu, from which these extracts have been translated into English, was collated with great care and diligence by Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, Allah have mercy on him and reward him graciously for his great labour of love. Amin. The English rendering is by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, may Allah be pleased with him, and is quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 1. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an. ESSENCE OF ISLAM: Part 24 – What is Revelation? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 5 6 The Review of Religions – October 2007 of authors are able to produce a series of writings on purely fictitious subjects, but they cannot be called revelation. If revelation were the name of any idea arising in the mind, a thief could be called a recipient of revelation for he can think of clever ways of robbery and ingenious plans of house- breaking and manslaughter cross his mind. We cannot call all this revelation. This is the thinking of people who have no clear notion of the True God, Who comforts the hearts with His converse and bestows the understanding of spiritual knowledge on those who are not familiar with it. What is revelation? It is God’s converse in living and powerful words with a chosen servant or with one whom He desires to choose. When this converse starts in an abundant and satisfactory manner and is free from the darkness of false thinking and is not confined to a few scattered and incomplete phrases, and is delicious and is full of wisdom and majesty, it is the Word of God by which He desires to comfort His servant and through which He manifests Himself to him. Sometimes a communication is made only for the purpose of a trial and is not accompanied by all the characteristic blessings of revelation. A servant of God Almighty is thereby tried whether ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). In 1891, he claimed, on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent had been foretold by Muhammad, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and by the scriptures of other faiths. The founder’s claim constitutes the basis of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 6 7The Review of Religions – October 2007 by tasting a little of revelation he adjusts his circumstances to those of true recipients of revelation or fails to do so. Then if he does not adopt true righteousness, he is deprived of the perfection of this bounty and is left with only vain boasting. Millions of good people receive revelation but they have not all the same rank in the estimation of Allah. Even the Prophets who are the recipients of clear revelation are not all equal in rank, as God Almighty has said: These Messengers have We exalted, some of them above others: among them there are those to whom Allah spoke [i.e. He gave them a new Law]; and some of them He exalted by degrees of rank. (Ch.2:V.254) This means that some Messengers are superior to others. It shows that revelation is pure grace and is not the insignia of rank. Rank depends upon the degree of sincerity and fidelity, which is known only to God. Revelation when accompanied by its blessed conditions is also a fruit of sincerity and fidelity. There is no doubt that if revelation takes the form of question and answer in a proper sequence and is cha- racterised by Divine majesty and light and comprises hidden matters or true understanding, then it is Divine revelation. For Divine revelation, it is necessary that there should be converse between the servant and his Lord as there is converse between friends when they meet. When the servant asks a question and in reply hears a delicious and eloquent speech from God Almighty, in which there is nothing of his own thinking and reflection and such converse becomes a bounty, then it is Divine speech and such a servant is dear to God. But this degree of revelation, which is a bounty, and is living, pure, clear, and unsullied, is bestowed only upon those who march forward in their faith, sincerity, righteous action, and also in what is simply ineffable. True and holy revelation demonstrates great wonders of the Divine. On many occasions, a brilliant light appears and along with it a majestic and shining revelation is conveyed. ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 7 8 The Review of Religions – October 2007 What could be greater than a recipient of revelation conversing with the Being Who is the Creator of heaven and earth? The beholding of God in this world is to converse with God. By this, we do not mean that condition in which some odd word, phrase or verse might flow from the tongue of a person without being accompanied by a direct address. A person who has such an experience is being tried. He casts about like a blind one and does not know the source of the commu- nication whether it is from God or from Satan. Such a one should have recourse to lstighfar. But if a good and righteous person begins to receive Divine communication without obstruction, a bright, delicious communication which is full of wisdom, in majestic terms and in complete wakefulness, and there has passed between him and God Almighty a series of at least ten questions and answers in the course of which God accepted his prayers a number of times and conveyed to him fine under- standings and informed him of coming events, then such a person should be most grateful to God and should be wholly devoted to Him, inasmuch as God has of His pure grace chosen him out of all His servants and has made him heir to the righteous ones who have passed on before him. Such a bounty occurs rarely and is a matter of good fortune. Everything beside it is of no value. Islam has always produced people of this rank and station. It is Islam alone in which God comes close to a servant and talks to him. He speaks inside him and makes his heart His throne and draws him towards heaven and bestows upon him all the bounties that have been bestowed upon those who have gone before. It is a pity that the blind world does not appreciate how near a person can approach to God. They do not step forward themselves and when some one steps forward he is either dubbed a Kafir or is deified and is put in the place of God. (Islami Usul Ki Philosophy, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol.10, pp.437-441) Revelation Provides Comfort in Distress It is idle to assert that revelation has no reality and is a vain thing, the harm of which is greater than its benefit. Such an assertion is made ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 8 9The Review of Religions – October 2007 only by a person who has never tasted this pure wine and does not desire to have true faith. Such a one is happy with his habits and customs and never seeks to find out to what degree he believes in the Almighty God and how far his understanding extends and what should he do so that his inner weaknesses are removed and a living change takes place in his morals, actions, and designs. He is not eager to cultivate that love which should make his journey to the other world easy and whereby he should develop the inner quality of making spiritual progress. Everyone can understand that this heedless life is ever pulling a person downward, with his relationship with wife and children and with the burden of honour and good repute, which are all like heavy stones pressing him downwards. He is in need of a high power, which, by bestowing true sight and true vision upon him, should make him eager to behold the perfect beauty of God Almighty. That high power is Divine revelation that provides comfort in distress. It enables a person to take his stand joyously and comfortably under mountains of misfortunes. That Imperceptible Being, Who confounds the reason and wisdom of all philosophers, manifests Himself only through revelation. He comforts the hearts of seekers and bestows con- tentment upon them and revives the half-dead ones by saying: I am present. It is true that the Holy Qur’an contains all the guidance, but when the Qur’an leads a person to the fountain of guidance the first indication of it is that he begins to experience converse with the Divine, whereby a revealing understanding of high degree and a visible blessing and light is created and that cognition begins to be acquired which cannot be achieved by blind following or through intellectual theories, for they are all limited, full of doubts, defective, and incomplete. We need to extend our cognition directly, for the greater our cognition the greater will be our eagerness. With a defective cognition, we cannot expect perfect eagerness. It is a matter of surprise how unintelligent those people are who do not consider themselves in need of that perfect means of approaching the truth ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 9 10 The Review of Religions – October 2007 upon which spiritual life depends. It should be remembered that spiritual knowledge and spiritual understanding can be acquired only through revelation and visions, and until we achieve that standard of light our humanness cannot acquire any true understanding or true perfection. Revelation is a Means of Salvation We have been created for a great purpose, which is the true understanding of God; on that understanding depends our salvation. It delivers us from every impure and doubtful way and leads us to the edge of a pure and clear river. It can be acquired only through Divine revelation. When, being delivered entirely from our ego, we dive deep with an eager heart into an unattainable Being, our humanness, having appeared in the court of Godhead, returns with some signs and lights from that world. Thus that which the worldly ones look upon with contempt is the only thing which brings a long-separated one in an instant to his Beloved and bestows comfort upon the lovers of the Divine. It relieves a person suddenly of all types of egoistic limitations; until that true light descends upon the heart, it is not possible that the heart should be illumined. The imperfection of human reason and the limitations of current knowledge bear witness to the need of revelation. [Izala-e-Auham, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 3, pp. 326-329] OBJECTION: The belief that God sends down His word from heaven is utterly wrong for the law of nature does not confirm it, nor do we ever hear a voice coming down from above. Revelation is the name given to those thoughts which arise in the minds of wise people by the use of reflection and observation, and that is all. ANSWER: A truth which is well- established and has been observed with their own eyes by numberless men of understanding, and the proof of which can be found in every age by a seeker after truth, suffers no harm by the denial of a person who is bereft of spiritual insight. If the thinking or defective knowledge of a person whose heart is wrapped up in coverings ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 10 11The Review of Religions – October 2007 fails to confirm it, the truth cannot be considered as being outside the law of nature. For instance, if a person who is unaware of the power of attraction of a magnet, and has never seen a magnet, were to claim that a magnet is only a piece of stone and that he has never witnessed any such power of attraction in any stone, and, therefore, it is wrong to assert that a magnet has such a power for this is contrary to the law of nature, then would his assertion cast doubt on the well-established quality of a magnet? Certainly not. All that his assertion would prove would be that he is stupid and ignorant who considers his own lack of knowledge as proof of the non- existence of a reality and does not accept the evidence of thousands of people who have experience of it. It is not possible to hold that every law of nature should be capable of being tested by every individual. God Almighty has created the human species with great diversity in their overt and covert faculties. For instance, some people possess very good sight, others are weak- sighted and some are altogether blind. When those who are weak sighted, find that those with good sight have perceived a thing from afar – for instance, they have sighted the crescent which they themselves are unable to see-they do not deny it and think that their denial would only expose their weakness. The blind, of course, have nothing to say in such a matter. In the same way, those who possess no sense of smell believe those serious and truthful people who speak of good smell and ill smell. They do not doubt them for they know that so many people do not tell lies and must be speaking the truth, and that without doubt their own sense of smell is lacking and that is why they are unable to experience any smell. Men also differ in respect of their covert capacities. The capacities of some are of a low degree and are covered up by veils. Some have from ancient times possessed high and clear souls and have been the recipients of Divine revelation. For the former to deny the personal characteristics of the latter would be the same as if a blind one, or one with weak sight, were to deny the observations of ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 11 12 The Review of Religions – October 2007 one with excellent sight, or as if a person lacking the sense of smell should deny the experiences of one with a sense of smell. Then to convince a person who denies the existence of revelation, there are ways like the ways of convincing a person who denies the observations of the overt senses. For instance, if one who is congenitally bereft of the sense of smell should deny the existence of good and foul smell, and should assert that those who claim such a sense are liars or are mistaken, he can be persuaded to admit his mistake in the following manner. He should be asked to select a few pieces of clothing and rub some with perfume and leave others untouched and thus test the sense of smell of a normal person, so that by repeated experiences he would be convinced both of the existence of this sense of smell and that there are to be found people who can distinguish between that which is fragrant and that which has no smell. In the same way, the existence of revelation can be proved to the satisfaction of a seeker after truth through repeated experiments. When hidden matters and secret mysteries which cannot be discovered through the experience of reason alone are disclosed to a recipient of revelation, and a revealed book is found to contain wonders which are not to be discovered in any other book, a seeker after truth realises that Divine revelation is an established truth. If such a person possesses a pure soul, he himself, by treading on the right path can, to the extent of the illumination of his heart, have experience of Divine revelation like the Auliya, whereby he acquires a certain knowledge of the revelation vouchsafed to the Messengers of God. For a seeker after truth who would sincerely express a desire to accept Islam, I am prepared to provide this means of satisfaction. ‘If anyone should doubt my word, let him come to me with sincerity. Allah has the power to do what I say and He is the Helper in every matter’. Fine Thought is not to be Confused with Revelation To imagine that the fine points that are disclosed to people through ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 12 13The Review of Religions – October 2007 reflection and observation are revelation, and that revelation is nothing more than this, is an error due to ignorance. Were it true that human thinking constituted Divine revelation then man also could have discovered the unseen by the use of his reflection and observation. It is obvious that however wise a person may be he cannot disclose anything hidden by merely reflecting on the matter. Nor can he exhibit any sign of Divine power. His speech indicates no sign of God’s Power and, however much he might reflect, he cannot discover the unseen which is beyond his reason and observation and his other senses. Nor is his speech or composition of such a high degree that no one can compete with him. Thus, there are enough reasons for a wise person to conclude that whatever a man might think in consequence of his own reflection, or observation, cannot be the Word of God. Had it been the Word of God, a person would have had access to all that is unseen and would have been able to expound those matters the exposition of which depends upon Divine power, inasmuch as it is necessary that the Work of God and the Word of God should disclose Divine manifestations. The Distinction between Creation and Command It may be asked from whom and wherefrom proceed the good and bad designs that arise in one’s mind as the result of reflection and observation? The answer is that such thoughts are the creation of Allah and not His command. There is a difference between creation and command. By creation is meant that God Almighty produces something through physical means and attributes it to Himself because He is the Cause of causes. Command is that which proceeds directly from God Almighty without the intervention of any means. Revelation, which descends from God, proceeds from the world of command and not from the world of creation. Thoughts that arise in people’s minds in consequence of observation and reflection all proceed from the world of creation in which the Divine power operates behind the veil of means. ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 13 14 The Review of Religions – October 2007 God has created men in the world of means equipped with diverse types of powers and faculties and has invested them with the characteristic that when they employ their reflection in a good or bad matter their minds alight upon appropriate plans. As it is part of the law of nature that when a person opens his eyes he can see something and when he directs his ear towards sound he can hear something; in the same way when he reflects on the way of success in a good or bad design, some plan arises in his mind. A good man by reflecting upon good designs, thinks of good things, and a thief, by reflecting upon the various ways of robbery, invents a plan to commit robbery. Just as a man can think of deep and devious evil designs, in the same way when he uses his faculty in a good way, he can think of good designs. As his bad thoughts, however deep and effective they may be, cannot be held to be revelation, in the same way his thoughts which he deems to be good are not revelation. In short, whatever good thoughts occur to good people and whatever bad thoughts or designs arise in the minds of thieves and robbers and murderers and adulterers and forgers as the result of reflection and observation are all the result of the exercise of natural qualities, and because God is the Cause of causes, they are called the creation of God and not His command. They are the natural qualities of man as in the case of some vegetables the quality of purgation or the quality of constipation and other qualities are natural to them. As God has invested other things with different types of qualities, He has invested man’s power of reflection with the quality that it helps man whenever he requires its help in a good or bad design. A poet who seeks to lampoon anyone finds his mind working in that direction and he is able to produce such poetry. Another poet seeks to praise the same person and commendatory verses come to his mind. This kind of good or bad thought is not the mirror of the Divine will and cannot be called His word. God’s holy word is the word which is far above human faculties and is full of perfection and power and holiness. The very first condition of its manifestation is that human faculties should be entirely suspended and rendered ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 14 15The Review of Religions – October 2007 useless. There should be neither reflection nor observation and the person concerned should be dead like a corpse. All means should be cut off and God Almighty, Whose Being alone is actual and real, should cause His word to descend upon the heart of someone by His special design. It should be understood that as the light of the sun comes only from heaven and cannot be produced inside the eye, in the same way the light of revelation descends from God and by His design and does not arise from inside a person. As God truly exists and sees, hears, knows and speaks, His word should descend from Him and should not be the product of man’s mind. From our minds arise the same thoughts, good or bad, which dwell within us according to our nature, but God’s limitless knowledge and boundless wisdom cannot dwell in our hearts. What greater denial of God could there be than for a man to think that all the Divine treasures of knowledge and wisdom and hidden mysteries are present in our hearts and surge up in them. This would mean that we ourselves are God and that there is no Being outside of us Who is Self-Existing and pos- sesses Divine attributes, Who should be called God. For if God truly exists and His unlimited knowledge is special to Him, of which our hearts cannot be the measure, then utterly wrong and senseless would be the observation that God’s limitless knowledge fills our hearts and all the treasuries of His wisdom dwell therein as if God’s knowledge is limited to that which is contained in our hearts. This would amount to a claim of Godhead itself, but is it possible that the heart of man should comprehend all the excellencies of the Divine? Is it permissible that a particle should become the sun? Certainly not. We have already stated that the characteristics of the Divine, like His knowledge of the unseen and His comprehension of wisdom and other natural signs, cannot be manifested by man. God’s word should be characterised by God’s Greatness, God’s Power, God’s Blessing, God’s Wisdom and God’s Peerlessness. All these characteristics are found in the Holy Qur’an, the proof of which ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 15 16 The Review of Religions – October 2007 we shall set forth at its proper place. If those of Brahmu Samaj still persist in denying the existence of revelation, which comprehends the unseen and other proofs of power, they should study the Holy Qur’an with full attention, so that they should come to know that in this Holy Word surges a whole ocean of matters that are unseen and manifestations of power which are beyond the strength of man. If they should be unable, through lack of insight, to discover these Qur’anic excellencies themselves, they should read this book of ours with attention so that they might discover as a sample some of the treasures of hidden matters and powerful mysteries of which the Holy Qur’an is full. They should also know that as proof of the existence of Divine revelation that descends from God and comprehends hidden matters, there is another way that is open and that is that God Almighty always creates from among the Muslims, who base themselves upon the true faith, such people who receive revelation from God and disclose such hidden matters the disclosure of which is not within the power of anyone except of God, the One, without associate. God Almighty bestows this holy revelation only on those of the faithful who truly believe in the Holy Qur’an as the Word of God and act upon it with full sincerity and who believe in Muhammad, the chosen one (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) as the true and perfect Prophet, who is better and higher and more exalted than all the Prophets and is Khatam-ur-Rusul, and accept him as their guide. Such revelation is not vouchsafed to the Jews and Christians and Aryas and Brahmus, but has always been vouchsafed to the perfect followers of the Holy Qur’an and is now vouchsafed to them and will continue to be vouchsafed to them. Though the prophetic revelation has been cut off as no longer needed, the revelation that is vouchsafed to the sincere servants of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) will never be cut off. This revelation is a grand proof of the revelation which is special to Messengership and humiliates every opponent of ESSENCE OF ISLAM – WHAT IS REVELATION? Oct 2007.qxd 20/11/07 14:15 Page 16