HAZRAT MIRZA GHULAM AHMADAS, THE PROMISED MESSIAH AND IMAM MAHDI
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 discusses the internal and external qualities of Surah Fatihah, the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. I, 427-438. This is the seventh part of a multi-part series.
Internal and External Qualities of Surah Fatihah
It should also be remembered that the matchlessness and peerlessness of the Holy Qur’an has not only arguments of reason to establish it, but is confirmed by experience over a long period. For 1,300 years the Holy Qur’an has been putting forward its qualities as a challenge to the whole world that in its external and internal qualities it is matchless and peerless and that no man can produce its equal, and yet no one has come forward to take up the challenge, not even with regard to one surah [chapter], for instance the Surah Fatihah. Now what could be a clearer miracle than that not only this Holy Word is beyond the reach of human faculties on the basis of reason, but experience over a long period also testifies to its miraculous nature.
If someone should be dissatisfied with both these types of testimony and should take pride in his knowledge and ability, or should believe that some other writer can compose something like the Holy Qur’an, we shall proceed, as we have promised, to set forth a sample of the verities and fine points comprehended in the Surah Fatihah. Such a person should put forth some composition of his own as a rival to the external and internal qualities of the Surah Fatihah.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1, pp. 394-403, footnote 11
Like the Holy Qur’an, the Surah Fatihah comprises two types of qualities which are matchless, one external and the other internal. As we have repeatedly set forth, its external quality is that its text is so colourful, bright, fine, delicate, eloquent, sweet and smooth, and its statements and sequence are so beautiful that it is not possible to set forth its meaning in an equal or more eloquent composition. If the writers and poets of the whole world should seek to expound its subject matter on their own in another text, which should be equal to or better than the text of the Surah Fatihah, they would find it impossible to do so, as the Holy Qur’an has put forward its claim of matchlessness before the whole world over a period of 1,300 years without a response…The silence of its opponents over the centuries has furnished the Holy Qur’an with a degree of proof of matchlessness which is not possessed by the rose, for the thinkers and artisans of the world have never been invited to match anything else in this manner, nor have they been warned that in the case of their inability to do so they would be subjected to diverse types of ruin and destruction…
Now we repeat the inner qualities of the Surah Fatihah so that they are duly appreciated by those who reflect. Be it known, therefore, that as the All-Wise has placed diverse types of benefits for the human body in the rose, such as that it strengthens the heart and faculties and souls, and is helpful in the case of several diseases, in the same way, God Almighty has placed in the Surah Fatihah, and indeed in the whole of the Holy Qur’an, healing for spiritual ills and a cure for inner diseases, which is not to be found anywhere else, inasmuch as it is filled with those verities which had disappeared from the world without leaving any trace…
It was in truth a rain of mercy which descended from heaven to save the lives of the extremely thirsty. The spiritual life of the world depends upon the descent from heaven of that life-giving water and not a drop of it is such that it is not a remedy for some ill. The condition of the world through centuries had proved that it could not remedy these diseases on its own, without the descent of this light, and could remove its darkness without a heavenly light which should illumine the world with its rays of truth, and should cause those to see who had never seen, and should cause those to understand who had never understood. This heavenly light not only presented such true insights as had disappeared from the world, but filled many minds with these jewels of truth and wisdom, and drew many hearts to its beauteous countenance, and carried many to high stages of knowledge and action through its powerful effect. Both these types of qualities which are found in the Surah Fatihah and in the Holy Qur’an are such bright arguments for proving the matchlessness of the Word of God, as the qualities of the rose are admitted by everybody to be beyond human power. Indeed, the truth is that as these qualities of the Holy Qur’an are obviously extraordinary and beyond the reach of human power, such qualities are not to be found in the rose.
The greatness and glory and matchlessness of these qualities is fully appreciated when they are considered together collectively. First, it should be considered that the text should be so eloquent, sweet, pure, attractive and colourful that if any human being should desire to compose such a text, which should be comprehensive of all the meanings which are to be found in this eloquent text, he would find it impossible to do so. Secondly, it should be considered that the subject matter of this text should be comprehensive of such verities and fine points which should be of a very high order and no phrase or word or letter should lack wisdom. Thirdly, it should be considered that those verities should be such as are sorely needed by this age. Fourthly, it should be considered that those verities should be so matchless that no thinker or philosopher should have discovered them by his own observation or reflection. Fifthly, it should be considered that those verities should have appeared as a fresh bounty and that before their appearance the people of that age should have been wholly unaware of them. Sixthly it should be considered that the text should possess a heavenly blessing in that, by following it, a seeker after truth should be able to establish a true relationship with God Almighty, and a true affection for Him; and that such lights should begin to shine in him as ought to shine in men of God.
When they are considered collectively, sane reason unhesitatingly confirms that it is impossible and beyond the power of a human being to produce a text which should comprise all these perfect qualities. One is filled with awe by the contemplation at one time of all these overt and covert excellences, and a wise person is assured that it is beyond human reason and imagination to produce such a combination. A rose does not inspire such awe. The Holy Qur’an possesses this specialty that its qualities, which have been mentioned as proof of its matchlessness, are self-obvious. When an opponent finds that not one letter of it is out of place and not in accord with wisdom and appropriateness, and that not a single phrase of it is such as is not sorely needed for the reform of the age together with such perfection of eloquence that it is not possible to replace one line of its text with another, his heart is overcome by a great awe.
An ignorant person who has never considered these matters might perhaps ask what is the proof that all these qualities are to be found in the Surah Fatihah, and indeed in the whole of the Holy Qur’an. The proof is that those who considered the matchless excellences of the Holy Qur’an and found its text possessing such eloquence that they failed utterly to produce its like, and found its verities and fine points of such high degree that they did not find their match in the whole world, and observed such wonderful effects in it as are not to be found in human words, and observed this holy quality in it that it was not revealed without purpose, but descended at a time of true need, they at once admitted its matchless greatness. Those who on account of their eternal misfortune were deprived of the bounty of faith were yet so overawed by this matchless composition that in their confusion they announced that it was plain magic. A just person finds it a strong argument in support of the matchlessness of the Holy Qur’an and a bright proof, that despite the fact that for 1,300 years the Holy Qur’an has incited its opponents to produce its match and has called those who failed to do so and yet continued in their opposition, wicked, contaminated, cursed and condemned to hell; yet the opponents chose all humiliation and dishonour and disgrace for themselves and submitted to being called false, contemptible, shameless, wicked, mischievous, faithless and condemned to hell, but could not produce even a short surah for comparison with the Holy Qur’an. Nor were they able to find fault with the merits, qualities, greatnesses and verities which the Word of God presents. They were under the challenge, and still are, that if they do not wish to give up their disbelief and lack of faith, they should produce the like of one surah of the Holy Qur’an and should confront us with a text which comprises all those external and internal qualities which are to be found in the briefest surah of the Holy Qur’an.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1 pp. 403-410, footnote 11
To bring our argument to its completion, we will set forth some fine points and verities of Surah al-Fatihah. First we will write Surah al-Fatihah and then write about its profound verities. The Surah Fatihah runs as follows:
Given below are a few points of wisdom and verities in the commentary of this surah by way of illustration.
is the first verse of this surah and of all other surahs of the Holy Qur’an and also occurs in the Holy Qur’an at another place. It is repeated in the Holy Qur’an more often than any other verse. It has become a practice among the Muslims that at the beginning of every action in which good and blessing is sought, this verse is recited as a sign of blessing and as a supplication for help. Thus it has become well known among enemies and friends and among old and young, so much so that even if a person is entirely unaware of all other verses of the Qur’an, there is a strong hope that he would not be unaware of this verse.
Of the perfect verities that this verse comprises, one is that the purpose of this verse is to teach the humble and unaware servants of God that there are many attributes of the Great name of God, which is Allah, and which in the divine idiom of the Qur’an is comprehensive of all perfect qualities, and is free from all defects, and is used for the True God, One without associate, and is the Fountainhead of all grace, and that two of those attributes which are set out in the verse bismillah, namely rahmaniyyat [grace] and rahimiyyat [mercy], demand the revelation of the Word of God and the spread of its lights and blessings.
The descent of the Holy Word of God into the world and its being made known to God’s creatures is the demand of the attribute of rahmaniyyat. The attribute of rahmaniyyat is manifested without being preceded by the action of any person and merely by the beneficence and bounty of God. God has created the sun and the moon and water and air, etc., for the welfare of His creatures and all this beneficence and bounty is by virtue of the attribute of rahmaniyyat. No one can claim that these things have been created as a reward of any action of his. In the same way, the word of God which has descended for the reform and guidance of mankind, has descended by virtue of this attribute. There is no animate who can claim that the Holy Word of God which comprehends His law has been revealed in consequence of any action or effort of his or as the reward of his virtue. This is the reason why despite the fact that there have been thousands who claim to be pure and virtuous and who have spent their lives in piety and worship, yet the Holy and Perfect Word of God which brought into the world His commandments and informed men of His designs, was revealed only at such time when it was needed.
It is, however, necessary that the Holy Word of God should be revealed only to those who occupy a high place in holiness and purity of soul, inasmuch as holiness has no relationship with impurity. But it is not necessary that in every case of holiness and virtue there should be a revelation of the Word of God. The revelation of the true law and teaching of God Almighty depends upon true need. Whenever the need arose and it appeared that the divine word should be revealed for the reform of the age in that time, God Almighty, Who is All-Wise, revealed the word. At no other time is the perfect Word of God, which comprises divine law, revealed, though there might be present millions of people who are righteous and pure and possess a high degree of holiness and virtue. It is true that God holds converse with some pure people but that also happens when, according to divine wisdom, true need arises for such converse. The difference between the two needs is that divine law is revealed at the time of such need when the people of the world, through misguidance and error, have turned away from the right path and a new law is needed to bring them back to it, which should remove their afflictions and lift their darkness totally by the light of its perfect and healing statements, and should provide with its forceful pronouncements the remedy which is needed by the corrupt condition of the world.
But the converse that is held with the auliya [those who are friends with God]is not preceded by this great need. Very often, the purpose of such converse is to invest the soul of a saint with steadfastness at a time of distress, or to convey some piece of good news to him at a time when he is overcome by sorrow and grief. But the perfect and Holy Word of God Almighty that descends upon prophets and messengers is revealed, as we have just stated, when a true need for it arises and when mankind is in dire need of its revelation. Thus the true cause of the descent of the Word of God is its proper need. When the whole night becomes dark and no light is left you realize that the appearance of the new moon is near. In the same way, when the darkness of misguidance overcomes the world, sane reason appreciates that the appearance of the spiritual moon is near. In the same way, when people are afflicted with a drought, the wise among them consider the descent of the rain of mercy very near.
In His physical law also God has appointed some seasons for rain during which God’s creatures are truly in need of rain. From the rain that descends during those seasons, it cannot be concluded that at that time people do more good and at other times they are involved in vice. Those are seasons when the cultivators are in need of rain and the descent of rain at that time becomes the cause of the growth of vegetation throughout the year. In the same way, the descent of the Word of God is not on account of the piety and righteousness of a particular person, that is to say, the cause of the descent of such a word is not that a particular person was very holy and virtuous, or was hungry and thirsty for the truth. As we have written so often, the true cause of the revelation of heavenly books is their need, that is to say, that gloom and darkness which spread over the world and demand a heavenly light which should dispel the darkness. This is indicated in the divine word in the verse:
This night, according to its common interpretation, is a blessed night, but some of the verses of the Holy Qur’an indicate that the condition of the darkness of the world is also a Night of Decree on account of its hidden qualities. In that condition of darkness, sincerity and steadfastness, and piety and worship have great value in the estimation of God. It was because of that condition of darkness which at the time of the advent of the Holy Prophetsa had arrived at its climax and demanded the descent of a grand light, that observing this dark condition and having mercy on the creatures afflicted with darkness, there was an upsurge in the attribute of rahmaniyyat and heavenly blessings addressed themselves to the earth. That dark condition became blessed for the world and the world thereby received a grand mercy so that the perfect man and the chief of the prophets, like whom there had been no one, nor ever will be, came for the guidance of the world and brought that bright book for the world whose match no eye has beheld. It was a great manifestation of spiritual perfection of God that, at a time of gloom and darkness, He sent down a grand light which is named the Furqan [another name for the Holy Qur’an]and which distinguishes between truth and falsehood and which demonstrated the coming of truth and the disappearance of falsehood. It descended upon the earth when the earth had become spiritually dead and land and sea had been greatly corrupted. By its descent it accomplished that to which God Almighty has pointed in the verse:
That is to say: The earth had died and God revived it afresh.
It should be remembered that the descent of the Holy Qur’an which took place for the purpose of reviving the earth came about through the upsurge of the attribute of rahmaniyyat. This is the attribute which sometimes manifests itself in a material way and causes the rain of mercy to descend upon dry land and thus makes provision for those who are afflicted with famine. The same attribute sometimes surges up spiritually and has mercy on the condition of those who are hungry and thirsty and near unto death on account of misguidance and error, and lack the nourishment of truth and righteousness which is the source of spiritual life. Thus the Gracious One, as He bestows nourishment upon the body at the time of need, so of His perfect mercy He provides spiritual nourishment also at the time of need.
It is true, however, that the Word of God descends only upon those of the elect with whom God is pleased, but it is not true that without any true need a heavenly book is revealed to anyone with whom God is pleased, or that without any such need He necessarily and continuously holds converse with such a one. The book of God is revealed only when its need arises. The true cause of divine revelation is the rahmaniyyat of God Almighty and not anyone’s actions. This is a great verity of which our opponents the Brahmu Samajists [a sect of Hinduism] and others are unaware.
it should be understood that for anyone to become the recipient of the grace of
divine revelation, and to arrive at his goal through its blessings and lights
and to obtain the fruits of his effort, comes about by the support of the
attribute of rahimiyyat. This is why, after the attribute of rahmaniyyat,
Allah the Exalted cites the attribute of rahimiyyat, so that it should
become known that the effects of divine revelation which manifest themselves in
the souls of people derive from the attribute of rahimiyyat. To the
degree to which a person turns to God, and sincerity and faith take possession
of his heart, and he adopts obedience by putting forth appropriate effort, to
that degree his heart is affected by divine revelation and he derives benefit
from its lights and the signs of those who are accepted by God are manifested
 ‘In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, the Gracious, the Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help. Guide us in the straight path – The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and astray.’ The Holy Qur’an, 1:1-7. [Publisher]
 ‘In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.’ The Holy Qur’an, 1:1. [Publisher]
 ‘We sent it down on the Night of Destiny.’ The Holy Qur’an, 97:2. [Publisher]
 The Holy Qur’an, 57:18.