The affirmation that the Holy Qur’an and the Ahadith alone suffice us and that we do not need the company of the righteous is opposed to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, as Allah the Exalted has said:
And be with the truthful. (Ch.9:V.119)
The truthful are those who have recognised the truth through their spiritual insight and are devoted to it. This high grade of spiritual insight cannot be achieved unless heavenly guidance conveys a seeker to the stage of certainty by experience. In this sense the truly righteous are the Prophets, the Messengers, the Muhaddathin and the perfect Auliya’ who are guided by heavenly light and who behold God Almighty with the sight of certainty in this very world. The verse we have just quoted indicates that the world is never left without the truthful, as the commandment, ‘be with the truthful’ (Ch9:V.119), necessitates the presence of the truthful at all times.
Besides, observation confirms that the learning and knowledge of those who do not seek the company of the righteous does not help to rid them of their physical passions, and that they do not achieve even a minimum status in Islam which generates the certainty of belief that God does indeed exist. They do not believe in the existence of God with the same certainty as they feel with regard to their wealth, which is locked in their boxes, or about the houses which they own. They dread swallowing arsenic, as they are certain that it is fatal poison, but they do not dread the poison of sin, though they read in the Holy Qur’an:
Verily, he who comes to his Lord a sinner – for him is Hell; he shall neither die therein nor live. (Ch.20:V.75)
The truth is that he who does not recognise God Almighty cannot recognise the Holy Qur’an. It is true that the Holy Qur’an has been revealed for guidance, but the guidance of the Qur’an is bound up with the personality of the one to whom it was revealed or of one who is appointed his substitute by God. Had the Qur’an alone been enough, God Almighty had the power to have the Qur’an inscribed on the leaves of trees or could have made it descend from heaven in the form of a book, but this was not what He did. He did not send the Qur’an into the world till the teacher of the Qur’an had been sent. You will find that at several places the Holy Qur’an affirms:
…teaches them the Book and wisdom… (Ch.62:V.3)
That is: The Holy Prophet(saw) teaches the Qur’an and its wisdom to the people. At one place it is said:
Which none shall touch except those who are purified. (Ch.56:80)
This means that the verities and the insights of the Qur’an are revealed only to the purified.
This shows clearly that for the true understanding of the Holy Qur’an a teacher is needed who is purified by God Almighty Himself. Had a teacher of the Qur’an not been needed, there would have been no such need from the beginning of time. It is idle to assert that in the beginning a teacher was needed for the exposition of the difficult parts of the Qur’an, and exposition having been made, a teacher is no longer needed. Fresh exposition is needed from time to time. The Muslims are confronted with new difficulties in every age. It is true that the Qur’an comprises all knowledge but not all its knowledge is disclosed at one time. It is revealed as difficulties and problems are encountered. Spiritual teachers, who are the heirs of the Prophets and are reflectively invested with their qualities, are sent to resolve the difficulties that arise in every age. The reformer whose functions closely resemble the functions of a Messenger bears the name of that Messenger in the estimation of Allah.
Teachers are also needed, because some portions of the teaching of the Holy Qur’an are matters of hÇl as opposed to qÇl.1 The Holy Prophet(saw) who was the first teacher of the Holy Qur’an and the true heir of its teaching, demonstrated its teachings to his companions by his own practice and example. For instance, the Divine affirmation that He knows the unseen, accepts prayer, has power to do all that He wills, leads His seekers to true light, sends His revelation to His sincere servants, and causes His spirit to descend upon whomsoever He wills out of His creatures, are all matters that can be understood only through the example of the teacher himself.
It is obvious that the superficial clerics, who are themselves blind, cannot illustrate these teachings. On the contrary, they teach that all these matters have been left behind and can no longer be experienced. Thus they create doubts in the minds of their disciples concerning the greatness of Islam. They teach that Islam is no longer a living faith and there is no way now to discover its true meaning. It is obvious, however, that if God Almighty designs that His creatures should always drink from the spring of the Holy Qur’an, He would have made provisions for it as He has always done. Had the teachings of the Holy Qur’an been limited, as the teaching of an experienced and right thinking philosopher is limited, and did it not comprise the heavenly teaching which can only be demonstrated by practice, then, God forbid, the revelation of the Holy Qur’an was needless. But I know that if one were to reflect upon the distinction between the teaching of the Prophets and the teaching of the philosophers, assuming both to be true, the only distinction that would be discovered is that a great portion of the teaching of the Prophets is metaphysical and can only be understood and appreciated through practical demonstration, and can be illustrated only by those who have personal experience of it…
If Allah the Glorious has so willed that this portion of the teaching of His Book should not be confined to the early ages, then He must have arranged for the teachers of that portion to be available at all times, since the portion of the teaching which relates to personal experience cannot be comprehended except through teachers who have experience through teachers who have experienced it. Therefore, if after the Holy Prophet(saw) teachers who were guided by the reflection of the light of Prophethood had not been available, it would mean that God Almighty, having removed from the world at an early stage those who understood the Holy Qur’an truly and correctly, deliberately let the Qur’an become useless. But this would be contrary to His promise:
Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian. (Ch.15:V.10)
That is: ‘It is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and We shall continue to safeguard it.’
I am unable to understand that if those with complete understanding of the Qur’an and belief in its certainty through personal experience have all passed away, then how has the Qur’an been safeguarded? Does safeguarding it mean that the Qur’an, beautifully inscribed, would be preserved forever locked in safes like treasures that lie buried under the earth and are no use to anyone? Can anyone imagine that this is the true meaning of this verse? If so, there is nothing extraordinary about it. Rather, such a claim is laughable and amounts to inviting ridicule from the enemies of Islam. Of what use is the safeguarding which does not serve the true purpose? It is quite possible that a copy of the Torah or the Gospel may be found which has been similarly safeguarded. There are thousands of books, which have continued to exist entirely unaltered and which are for certain the writings of a particular person. There is no particular merit in such preservation, and such safeguarding of the Qur’an would be of no benefit to the Muslims. It is true that the safeguarding of the text of the Holy Qur’an is greater than that of all other books and is in itself extraordinary, but we cannot imagine that God Almighty, Who always has a spiritual purpose, meant only the safeguarding of the text of the Holy Qur’an. The very word dhikr [remembrance] clearly indicates that the Holy Qur’an will be preserved forever as a remembrance, and its true dhakirin2 will always be present. This is confirmed by another verse, which says:
Nay, it is a collection of clear Signs in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge… (Ch.29:V.50)
[That is] the Holy Qur’an is composed of clear Signs in the bosoms of those who have been bestowed knowledge.’
This verse clearly means that the believers have been bestowed knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and they act upon it. As the Qur’an is preserved in the bosoms of the believers, the verse:
Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian. (Ch.15:V.10)
means that it would not cease to dwell therein….
Secondly, reason demands that for the teaching and understanding of Divine books, it is necessary that, like the advent of the Prophets, recipients of revelation and persons equipped with spiritual knowledge should also continue to appear from time to time. Similarly, when we study the Qur’an and deliberate upon it we discover that the availability of spiritual teachers is part of the Divine design. For instance God has said:
…but as to that which benefits men, it stays on the earth… (Ch.13:V.18)
[That is:] ‘That which benefits people endures in the earth.’
The Prophets who strengthen people’s faith through miracles, prophecies, verities, insights and the example of their own righteousness, and benefit the seekers after truth, are obviously the greatest benefactors of mankind. And it is also obvious that they do not remain upon the earth for a long time and pass away after a short existence. Yet the purport of this verse cannot be contradictory to this reality. Therefore, with reference to the Prophets, this verse means that they continue their beneficence by way of reflection. God Almighty at the times of need raises a servant of His who becomes their example reflectively and thus continues their spiritual life. It is for this purpose that God has taught the prayer:
Guide us in the right path – the path of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy blessings. (Ch.1:Vs.6-7)
[That is:] ‘O Allah, guide us along the straight path, the path of those servants upon whom Thou has bestowed Thy favours….’
Not only has He taught this prayer, but has also promised in another verse:
As for those who strive in Our path – We will surely guide them in Our ways… (Ch.29:V.70)
[That is:] ‘Those who strive in Our path – which is the right path – We will surely guide them along Our ways.’
It is clear that the ways of God Almighty are those that have been disclosed to the Prophets.
There are other verses which also indicate that it is God’s design that spiritual teachers, who are the heirs of the Prophets, should always continue to be available. For instance:
Allah has promised to those among you 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… (Ch.24:V.56)
Meaning: ‘O True believers among the followers of Muhammad(saw), Allah has promised those among you who believe and act righteously, that He will surely make them successors in the earth, as He made successors among those who were before them.’
…And as for those who disbelieve, disaster shall not cease to befall them for what they have wrought or to alight near their home, until the promise of Allah comes to pass. Surely, Allah fails not in His promise. (Ch.13:V.32)
[Meaning:] ‘Those who disbelieve will continue to be afflicted with a calamity, physical or spiritual, or which would descend close to their dwellings till the Divine promise is fulfilled. Surely Allah doeth not contrary to His promise.’
…We never punish until We have sent a Messenger. (Ch.17:V.16)
[Meaning:] ‘And We send not a punishment till after We have raised a Messenger.’
If a person reflects upon these verses he will realise that God Almighty has clearly promised the Muslims a permanent Khilafat. If this Khilafat were not permanent there would have been no sense in describing it as resembling the Khilafat of the Mosaic dispensation….
A Khalifa is a reflection of a Prophet. As man is mortal, God Almighty designed that Prophets, who are more exalted and honoured than all other beings, should be reflectively preserved forever. For this purpose, God instituted Khilafat so that the world should at no time be deprived of the blessings of Prophethood. He who limits it to thirty years, foolishly overlooks the true purpose of Khilafat, and does not realize that God did not design that the blessings of Khilafat be limited to thirty years after the death of the Holy Prophet(saw) and that, thereafter, the world may go to ruin….
There are many other verses in the Holy Qur’an, which give tidings of a permanent Khilafat among the Muslims, and there are also several Ahadith to the same effect. But what I have said already should suffice for those who accept established verities as great wealth.
There is no worse concept concerning Islam than to say that it is a dead religion whose blessings were confined only to its beginning. Can the Book that opens the door of perpetual good fortune inculcate so discouraging a doctrine that there is no blessing or Khilafat in the future and that everything has been confined to the past? True, there will be no independent Prophets among the Muslims. But if there were also to be no Khulafa to demonstrate the proofs of spiritual life from time to time, that would spell the end of spirituality in Islam….It causes one’s heart to tremble to imagine that Islam has now died and that no such people would arise in it, whose spiritual manifestations would be a substitute for miracles and whose inspiration a substitute for revelation, let alone that a Muslim should believe in any such possibility as a doctrine. May God Almighty guide those who are involved in such misguided thinking. (Shahadat-ul-Qur’an, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 6, pp. 339-356)
1. HÇl here means the practical demonstration of faith, as opposed to qÇl, which connotes only verbal acceptance.
2. Those who learn the Qur’an, act according to it, and recite it to others.