HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMAD (AS), THE PROMISED MESSIAH AND IMAM MAHDI
The Promised Messiah (as) 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 continues his discussion on the benefits of the Holy Qur’an and its similarities in characteristics to the rose.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. I, 415-427. This is the sixth part of a multi-part series.
The Holy Qur’an, on which depends obedience to the Holy Prophet (sa), is a book by following which signs of salvation are manifested in this very world. That is the only book which, through overt and covert means, perfects defective souls and delivers them from doubts and suspicions.
The overt way is that its statements are so comprehensive of verities and fine points that it refutes, through reasonable arguments, all the doubts which prevent people from reaching God, and being involved in which, hundreds of false sects are flourishing and hundreds of false doctrines are occupying the hearts of misguided people. All the light of the true and perfect teaching, which is needed for the darkness of the present age, shines forth in it like the sun, and the remedy for all the ills of the soul is set out in it and the exposition of all true insights is contained in it. There is no point of the knowledge of the divine which might be disclosed at any time in the future, which has been left out of it.
The covert way is that following it truly, man, being purified wholly of inner vices, establishes a relationship with the Lord on High and the lights of his acceptance by God begin to descend upon him. He is so encircled by divine favours that when he supplicates God in times of difficulty, God Almighty responds to him through His perfect mercy and compassion. Sometimes it happens that, when he is surrounded by his difficulties and sorrows, even if he supplicates a thousand times, he receives a loving response from his Gracious Lord every time in eloquent, delicious and blessed words. Divine revelation descends upon him like rain and he finds his heart so filled with the love of God as a transparent glass phial is filled with a delicate perfume. He is bestowed such pure delight of affection and eagerness which, breaking the strong chains of his ego, pulls him out of this smoky condition and bestows new life upon him every moment with the cool and comforting breezes of the True Beloved. Even before his death, he witnesses the divine favours for witnessing which other people set their hopes on the life after death.
All these bounties do not depend upon any monastic exercises or discipline, but are bestowed in consequence of following the Holy Qur’an and every true seeker can achieve them. For their achievement, however, perfect love of the Holy Prophet (sa) is a condition. In consequence of the love of Allah’s Prophet (sa), a person partakes of these lights according to his capacity which have been bestowed in their perfection on the Holy Prophet (sa). Thus, there is no better way for a seeker after truth than to embrace this faith through someone possessing insight and understanding and, by following the divine word and developing love of the Holy Prophet (sa), to witness the truth of our statements with his own eyes. If he turns to us with a sincere heart for the achievement of this purpose, we would be ready, trusting in the grace and bounty of God, to point out the way to him, but both the grace of God and personal capacity would be needed.
It should be borne in mind that true salvation is like good health. As good health is a condition in which all the signs of health should be apparent and there should be no disorder affecting health, in the same way, true salvation is that which shows the signs of the attainment of salvation. That which is proved to exist should exhibit the effects and conditions of such existence, for without these effects and conditions its existence cannot be established. As we have pointed out several times, for the establishment of salvation the conditions are that withdrawal towards God and the supremacy of the love of God should reach such a perfect stage that, through the company and attention and prayers of that person, these qualities should be produced in other persons also who possess the capacity. In his own personal condition, his insight should be so illumined that his blessings should be self-obvious in the sight of a seeker after truth; and he should possess all the specialties and be honoured with the converse of the divine which are the signs of those who are close to God.
No one should be misled by the prophecies of astrologers and soothsayers, and it should be remembered that these people have no relationship with the lights and blessings of the men of God. We have written before that human instruments have no relationship with powerful prophecies and benevolent promises which are the very truth and which convey the good news of victory and help and majesty and honour. God Almighty has bestowed such natures upon men of God that their looks, company, attention and prayers possess the qualities of a sovereign remedy provided that the beneficiary should possess the requisite ability. Such people are not recognized only through their prophecies, but through their treasures of understanding, their extraordinary trust, their perfect sincerity, their steadfastness, their love of God, their eagerness, their extreme humility, the purity of their souls, their discarding the love of the world, the numberless blessings which descend upon them like rain, their having the support of God, their matchless steadfastness, their fidelity of a high degree, their peerless righteousness and purity, their grand resolve and the expansion of their minds.
Prophecies are not their true purpose. The purpose of their prophecies is that by mentioning in advance the blessings that are about to descend upon them, and upon those connected with them, they should assure people that they are the objects of special attention from God. The communications that they receive from God are intended as a conclusive and certain proof of their truth and their being from God. Those people on whom these holy blessings are bestowed in abundance are such concerning whom the law of divine power of eternal wisdom has determined that their doctrines should be true and pure, and that they should be established in the true faith, and should have a strong relationship with God, and should be completely withdrawn from the world and all that it contains.
Their nature leans towards divine lights and the true faith. It would be the height of stupidity to compare their highly qualified selves, which comprise all blessings, with unfortunate astrologers and soothsayers, for they have no relationship with contemptible worldly people. On the contrary, they are heavenly lights like the sun and the moon and the eternal light of divine wisdom has created them so that by coming into the world they should illumine it. It should be borne in mind that as God has created certain remedies for physical illnesses and has brought into the world excellent things like antidotes, etc., for diverse types of pains and disorders and has invested these remedies from the beginning with the characteristic that when a diseased person, whose illness has not gone beyond remedy, uses these medicines with proper care, the Absolute Healer bestows to some degree health and strength upon the patient according to his capacity and ability, or restores him fully to health; in the same way, God Almighty has, from eternity, invested the pure spirits of these accepted ones with the characteristic that their attention, prayers, companionship and high resolve are the remedy for spiritual ills. Their souls become the recipients of diverse types of grace through visions and converse with the divine, and that grace manifests a grand effect for the guidance of mankind. In short, these men of God are a mercy for the creatures of God.
As it is the divine law of nature in this world of causes and effects that a thirsty one slakes his thirst by drinking water, and a hungry one satisfies the pangs of hunger by eating food, in the same way, by divine law prophets and their perfect followers become the means of the healing of spiritual ills. Hearts obtain satisfaction in their company, defects of humanness are reduced, darknesses of the ego are dissipated, eagerness of love for the divine surges up, and heavenly blessings are manifested. Without them, none of this can be achieved and these are their special signs by which they are recognized. So ponder over this matter and be not heedless.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1 pp. 345-356, sub-footnote 2
Matchlessness of the Holy Qur’an Illustrated with Surah Fatihah
For the general benefit, we proceed to set out the quality by possessing which a writing or a speech qualifies for being held matchless and from God. Then we shall select a surah [chapter]of the Holy Qur’an and shall prove that it possesses, in perfection and in completeness, all those qualities of matchlessness which have been set forth in the rule. Then if someone still refuses to accept those qualities of matchlessness the burden would lie upon him to produce some other writing or speech which should possess all those qualities of matchlessness.
If a writing or speech fully resembles something which has proceeded from God and is His handiwork, that is to say, it is comprehensive of the external and internal wonders which exist in something that has been fashioned by God, it would be said that that writing or speech is of a rank which cannot be matched by human powers, for if a thing is admittedly matchless and has proceeded from God, then anything else sharing fully its qualities of matchlessness would itself be matchless. For instance, if something is in complete accord with that which is ten yards in length, then it would be established as a certainty that that thing also is ten yards in length.
The Rose: A Wonder of Allah’s Creation
Now we shall select out of the creations of God a delicate creation, that is to say, a rose, and we shall set out the external and internal wonders by virtue of which it is admitted that it is beyond human power to create its match. We shall then prove that the wonders and excellences of Surah Fatihah not only match the wonders of the rose, but also exceed them. The reason why I select this illustration is that on one occasion I saw in a vision that I was holding in my hand the Surah Fatihah inscribed on a leaf and it was so beautiful and attractive that it appeared that the paper on which it was inscribed was loaded with soft red roses which were beyond count. When I recited any verse of the surah, many of the roses flew upwards emitting an attractive sound. Those roses were very large, delicate, beautiful, fresh, and fragrant; and by their ascending upwards the heart and brain were perfumed, overpowered, and drawn away from the world and its contents, on account of the matchless delights of the roses. From this vision, I gathered that the rose has a spiritual relationship with Surah Fatihah and that is why I have selected this illustration. I shall first set out as an illustration the wonders, external and internal, that are found in the rose and shall then describe as a contrast the external and internal wonders of Surah Fatihah so that a just reader should appreciate that the qualities, external and internal, that are found in the rose by virtue of which it is impossible to create its match, are found in Surah Fatihah to a higher degree. Thus, I would also fulfil the indication that was conveyed to me in my vision.
It will be admitted without hesitation that a rose, like other creations of God, possesses such qualities that a man has not the power to create its match. These qualities are of two types. First, those that are manifested in its appearance. They are that its colour is most attractive, and its smell pleases the heart, and its body is soft, fresh, delicate and clean. Secondly, there are the inner qualities with which it is invested by God, that is to say, the qualities that are inherent in it. These are that it pleases and strengthens the heart, upholds all the faculties and spirits, operates as a laxative, and strengthens the stomach, liver, kidneys, arteries, the womb, and lungs. It is very helpful in a coma and in weakness of the heart, and is useful in many other physical ailments.
On account of these two types of qualities, it is believed that the rose is so perfect that it is not possible for any human being to make a flower which should be attractive in colour and in fragrance, and should be fresh and soft and delicate and clear like the rose and in addition should possess all those qualities that are possessed by the rose. If it is asked why is it believed that human power is not able to create its match and why is it not possible that man should be able to produce in an artificial flower all the qualities, external and internal, that are found in the rose, the answer is that this has been proved in practice, and that no philosopher or physician has been able to compound any medicines, or to devise a recipe, that would produce a flower possessing the appearance and qualities of the rose.
Qualities of Surah Fatihah Compared with the Rose
It should now be understood that these elements of matchlessness are to be found in Surah Fatihah, and indeed in the briefest portions of the Holy Qur’an. First observe its external form and appreciate its colourful diction and beautiful exposition and sequence and other qualities which are essential for a good composition and which manifest themselves throughout Surah Fatihah, a manifestation that cannot be exceeded and which is free from every type of coarseness and wildness of idiom. Every phrase is most eloquent, every form of expression has its proper place, and every type of quality which enhances the beauty of its composition is found in it. The highest grade of eloquence that can be imagined is found in it in perfection and all that is needed to make its meaning clear is present. With all these good qualities, it is filled with the fragrance of truth and there is no exaggeration in it, which might have the slightest trace of falsehood. Its colourfulness is not like that of the poets which smacks of falsehood and is full of idle boasts. As the compositions of poets smell of falsehood and vain verbiage, this composition is full of the delicate fragrance of truth. This fragrance is accompanied by a beauty of exposition, propriety of diction, colourfulness, smoothness and, as in the rose, its fragrance is accompanied by the beauty of its colour and clearness. These are its external qualities.
From the point of view of its internal qualities, Surah Fatihah comprises remedies for great spiritual illnesses, and makes provision for the perfection of intellectual power and the power of action. It reforms great disorders and sets forth great insights and fine points which have been hidden from the eyes of thinkers and philosophers. The heart of a seeker is strengthened by its perusal and is healed of the ills of doubt and suspicion and error. Many high verities and fine realities which are needed for the perfection of the soul are furnished by its contents. Obviously, these excellences are such that they cannot be combined in the writing or speech of any human being. This impossibility is not mere inference, but is obvious. God Almighty has manifested the perfection of its external and internal qualities by setting out, in eloquent words, the fine points and high insights at the time of their need and in accordance with the requirements of truth. He has carried both sides, the external and the internal, to the highest grades of perfection. First, it sets out those necessary high insights the signs of which had disappeared from previous teachings, and no thinker or philosopher had set them forth. These have not been set out without need and in vain, but they have been set out at a time when they were absolutely necessary for the reform of the conditions of the age and without their being set out the age would have faced ruin and destruction. They have not been set out imperfectly or incompletely, and are perfect in themselves. The wisdom of a wise person cannot cite a religious verity which has been left out of them. Nor is there any doubt which troubles the mind of a worshipper of falsehood that has not been set at rest. To express all these verities and fine points, of which there was great need, at the highest level of eloquence, is a great undertaking which is obviously above the capacity of human faculties.
Man is so bereft of merit that it is not possible for him to express truthfully average matters, which are not connected with high verities, in colourful and eloquent words, adhering all the time to truth and accuracy of statement. For instance, it is impossible for a shopkeeper, who is a high-grade poet and writer, to carry on his conversation with diverse types of customers eloquently and in colourful words, confining himself to whatever is appropriate on every occasion. Where economy of words is needed, he should speak less and where long speeches are appropriate, he should hold forth at length. When a discussion should ensue between him and his customer, he should adopt a method which should support his thesis. Or take the case of a magistrate whose duty it is to take down accurately the statements of parties and witnesses and to make appropriate comments on them and to put questions and to record answers which are appropriate for the investigation of the matter in dispute, and to set down legal arguments accurately according to the law, and to set forth the facts in their proper order and to record his opinion and the reasons in support thereof accurately. He would find it impossible to do all this at a level of eloquence which it would not be possible for another human being to exceed. The case of human compositions is such that without vain, unnecessary and irrelevant matters, their authors cannot take a step and cannot set out anything without falsehood and idle statements. If they make an attempt it is defective like a picture which, if it depicts a nose, leaves out ears and if it depicts ears, it leaves out eyes. If truth is adhered to, eloquence has to be sacrificed, and if eloquence has to be pursued, falsehood and idle statements are piled up like an onion which is all leaves and has no substance.
Thus, sane reason determines that it is impossible to set out average matters in colourful and eloquent words while adhering to truth and the requirements of the occasion. Then it is easy to understand that to set out high insights according to the requirements of truth in colourful and eloquent language, better than which cannot be imagined, is a supernatural task which is beyond human power and is as impossible of achievement as it is impossible to create a flower which should completely resemble a rose in its external and internal qualities. Experience testifies and sane nature accepts that in ordinary matters it becomes impossible for a person to set forth something which is necessary and true, whether it relates to a matter of buying and selling or relates to judicial procedure, and it is desired to perform this task in the best manner, in the most appropriate and suitable language at the highest degree of eloquence. Then how is it possible for a human being to set forth in a writing truthfully and accurately insights and high verities according to need, comprising divine truths, without omitting anything that is needed for the reform of the times and for conclusive argument and for repelling the objections of opponents while observing all the rules of debate and discussion, and comprising all necessary arguments, proofs of teachings, and the requisite questions and answers? The difficulties would be multiplied a hundredfold beyond those that we have set out in the first case, and yet it would be necessary that the beauty of the composition should be matchless and peerless, and that it should not be possible to express the subject matter in more eloquent language.
These are the qualities which are found in the Surah Fatihah and in the Holy Qur’an, which are in accord with the qualities of matchlessness in a rose. But another great quality that is found in Surah Fatihah and the Holy Qur’an, which is peculiar to them, and that is that to read them with attention and sincerity purifies the heart, and removes the veils of darkness, and expands the mind, and drawing the seeker after truth to God, manifests such lights and effects in him which are found only in those who are close to God and which cannot be acquired by any other means. We have given proof in this book of this spiritual effect, and if a seeker after truth should so desire we can satisfy him and furnish fresh proof.