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 Messiah (as) expounds on the unique qualities of the Holy Qur’an and outlines the standard that a true commentary of the Holy Qur’an needs to fulfil.
Extracts from The Essence of Islam, Vol. I, 450-462. This is the ninth part of a multi-part series.
Surah Fatihah Comprehends the Purposes of the Holy Qur’an
Surah Fatihah briefly comprehends all the purposes of the Holy Qur’an. This is referred to in the verse:
This means that: O Prophet! We have bestowed upon thee the seven verses of the Surah Fatihah which briefly comprehend all the purposes of the Holy Qur’an and, in contrast with them, there is the Great Qur’an which sets out religious purposes in detail.
For this reason, this surah is known as the Mother of the Book and the Comprehensive Surah. It is the Mother of the Book because all purposes of the Holy Qur’an can be derived from it, and it is called the Comprehensive Surah as it briefly comprehends all types of learning contained in the Qur’an. It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet (sa) has said that reciting Surah Fatihah is like reciting the whole Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an and the ahadith [oral traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa)] show that the Surah Fatihah is a mirror that displays the Qur’an. For instance, it is one of the purposes of the Holy Qur’an that it sets out all the perfect praise of God Almighty and states clearly the complete perfection that He possesses. This is briefly set forth in Surah Fatihah in the verse:
which means that all types of perfect praise are established for Allah Who is comprehensive of all excellences and is worthy of every type of worship.
The second purpose of the Holy Qur’an is that it manifests God’s being the Perfect Fashioner and the Creator of the universe, and sets forth the beginning of the universe, and describes as a creation of God all that is part of the universe and proves the falsehood of those who are opposed to this. This purpose is set forth briefly in the phrase:
[Lord of all the worlds]
The third purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to establish the unearned grace of God and to set forth His general mercy. This purpose is conveyed briefly in:
The fourth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to establish that grace of God which follows upon effort and diligence. This is set forth in:
The fifth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to set forth the true condition of the hereafter. This is comprehended in the phrase:
[Master of the Day of Judgement]
The sixth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to set forth the sincerity and servitude and purification of the soul from that which is beside Allah, and the remedy of spiritual ills and the reform of moral qualities and the upholding of the Unity of God in worship. This is included briefly in the affirmation:
[Thee alone do we worship]
The seventh purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to establish God as the true source of all action, and of all strength and benevolence, and help and steadfastness, and obedience and freedom from sin, and the acquisition of all the means of doing good, and the reform of the here and the hereafter, and to emphasize the need of seeking His help in all matters. This purpose is set forth briefly in the affirmation:
[Thee alone do we implore for help]
The eighth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to set forth the fine points of the straight path and to emphasize the need of seeking it through prayer and supplication. This is briefly included in supplication:
[Guide us in the right path]
The ninth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to set forth the way and manner of those who become the recipients of God’s bounty and grace so that the hearts of the seeker after truth might be comforted. This purpose is included in:
[…the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings]
The tenth purpose of the Holy Qur’an is to set forth the qualities and way of those with whom God was displeased and of those who lost the way and fell into all sorts of innovations so that the seekers after truth should be warned of their ways. This purpose is included in:
[…those who have not incurred displeasure, and those who have not gone astray]
These are the ten purposes that are set out in the Holy Qur’an and that are the roots of all verities. So they are all briefly mentioned in the Surah Fatihah.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1, pp. 580-585, footnote 11
Perfection in Conduct by Following the Holy Qur’an
Those who put their trust in reason alone are as defective and deficient in action, faithfulness and sincerity of conduct, as they are deficient in knowledge, understanding and certainty. Their group has not set up an example which should prove that they are included among millions of holy people who are the faithful servants of God and are acceptable to Him. The blessings of these were so manifested that through their preaching and admonition with prayer and attention, and the influence of their company, hundreds of people began to tread the straight path and, becoming the men of God, turned wholly to their Lord. They paid no attention to the world and its contents, and cut off altogether from the delights, comforts, joys, renowns, prides, properties, and kingdoms of this world. They followed the path of righteousness whereby hundreds of them lost their lives, and thousands of heads were cut off, and the earth became wet with the blood of hundreds of thousands of holy ones. Despite all these calamities, they exhibited such fidelity that like devoted lovers they laughed while their feet were shackled, were joyful while suffering pain, and were grateful in the midst of misfortunes. For the sake of the love of the One they abandoned their homes, chose disgrace in place of honour, distress in place of comfort, poverty in place of wealth, and were content with indigence, solitude and helplessness in place of every kind of relationship, association and joy. By shedding their blood and having their heads cut off and laying down their lives, they set a seal upon the existence of God. By the blessing of following the Word of God they acquired such special lights as have never been found in others. Such people were not only to be found in ages past, but this group of the elect is ever-present in Islam and refutes its opponents by its illumined being.
Thus we have proved conclusively that as the Holy Qur’an conveys one to the high grade of intellectual perfection, in the same way, one attains through it to the stage of perfection in conduct also. The lights and signs of being accepted by God have always appeared and continue to appear in those who have followed this Holy Word and not in others. For a seeker after truth this proof which he can observe with his own eyes is enough, namely, that heavenly blessings and divine signs are found only in the perfect followers of the Holy Qur’an and that all other sects, who turn away from revelation, whether Brahmus, Aryas or Christians, are altogether deprived of this light of truth. We make ourselves responsible for satisfying everyone who denies this, provided such a one, being eager to embrace Islam sincerely, should turn to us in complete good faith and steadfastness and sincerity for seeking the truth.
—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1, pp. 350-352, footnote 11
Prophecies in the Narrated Stories in the Holy Qur’an
The stories set out in the Holy Qur’an are in reality prophecies which have been stated in the form of stories. In the Torah, they are merely stories but in the Holy Qur’an, every story is a prophecy concerning the Holy Prophet (sa) and Islam and these prophecies have been very clearly fulfilled. The Holy Qur’an is an ocean of verities, insights and prophecies. It is not possible that a person should believe fully in God Almighty except through the Holy Qur’an. For this characteristic is special to the Holy Qur’an that by following it perfectly all obstructions that exist between man and God are removed. Followers of other religions make mention of the name of God as a tale, but the Holy Qur’an shows the countenance of the True Beloved and makes the light of certainty enter the heart of a person. God, Who is hidden from the whole world, is seen only through the Holy Qur’an.
—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 271-272
Uniqueness of the Holy Qur’an in All its Qualities
The Holy Qur’an is not matchless merely on account of the beauty of its composition, but is matchless on account of all its excellences which it claims to comprise and that is the truth, for whatever proceeds from God Almighty is not unique only on account of one quality but on account of every one of its qualities. Those who do not accept the Holy Qur’an as comprehensive of unlimited verities and insights, do not value the Qur’an as it should be valued. A necessary sign for the recognition of the holy and true Word of God is that it should be unique in all its qualities, for we observe that whatever proceeds from God Almighty is unique and matchless even if it is only a grain of barley, and human powers cannot match it. Being matchless means being unlimited, that is to say, a thing can be matchless only when its wonders and qualities are unlimited and have no end.
As we have just stated, this characteristic is found in everything created by God Almighty. For instance, if the wonders of a leaf of a tree are investigated for a thousand years, that period would come to an end, but the wonders of the leaf will not come to an end. That which has come into being through unlimited power, must comprise unlimited wonders and qualities. The verse:
[Say, If the ocean became ink for the words of my Lord, surely, the ocean would be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end, even though We brought the like thereof as further help.’]
supports this, for the whole of creation is words of God…Thus this verse means that the qualities of creation are without limit and endless. Now when every created thing possesses unlimited and endless qualities and comprises numberless wonders then how could the Holy Qur’an, which is the holy word of God Almighty, be confined to the few meanings which may be set out in a commentary of forty or fifty or a thousand volumes, or could have been expounded by our lord and master the Holy Prophet (sa) in a limited period? To say so would almost amount to disbelief, if it is deliberately persisted in. It is true that whatever the Holy Prophet (sa) has set forth as the meaning of the Holy Qur’an is true and correct, but it is not true that the Holy Qur’an contains no more than the insights that have been set forth by the Holy Prophet (sa) Such sayings of our opponents indicate that they do not believe in the unlimited greatness and qualities of the Holy Qur’an. Their saying that the Holy Qur’an was revealed for the benefit of the unlearned, further proves that they are wholly bereft of the light of the recognition of the Holy Qur’an, and do not realise that the Holy Prophet (sa) was sent not only for the unlearned, but that people of all grades are included among his followers. God, the Glorious, has said:
[Say, O mankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah]
This verse shows that the Holy Qur’an was revealed for the perfection of every capacity. The following verse also points to this:
[…but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets]
The notion that whatever the Holy Prophet (sa) has said with reference to the Qur’an cannot be exceeded is obviously false. We have established with conclusive and certain arguments that it is necessary for the word of God Almighty that its wonders should be unlimited and matchless.
One objection is that if the Holy Qur’an comprises hidden wonders and qualities, then why were the earlier people deprived of their knowledge? The answer is that they were not deprived altogether of Qur’anic wonders, but were bestowed whatever in God’s design was needed by them of the knowledge of those wonders and whatever was needed in this age has been manifested in this age.
That which is the basis of faith, by knowing and accepting which a person can become a Muslim, has been proclaimed clearly in every age. I wonder wherefrom these Maulavis, who lack intelligence, have gathered that God Almighty was under obligation that whatever of His favors and bounties was to be manifested in future must be proved to have existed in past ages also.
—Karamat-us-Sadiqin, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 7, pp. 60-62
Standards for a True Commentary of the Holy Qur’an
The first standard of a true commentary on the Holy Qur’an is the testimony of the Qur’an itself. It should be remembered that the Holy Qur’an is not like other books dependent upon something else for proof or disclosure of its verities. It is like an orderly structure the whole of which is disturbed by the displacement of one of its bricks. It comprises no verity which is not supported by ten or twenty testimonies contained in it. When we interpret a verse of the Holy Qur’an we should consider whether it contains other testimony in support of the meaning that we have adopted. If other testimony is not available and the meaning that we have adopted is found to be opposed to other verses, we should realize that that meaning is false for it is not possible that there should be any contradiction in the Holy Qur’an. The sign of true meaning is that a whole host of clear testimony from the Holy Qur’an should confirm it.
The second standard for a correct interpretation of the Qur’an is the commentary of the Holy Prophet (sa). There can be no doubt that the person who understood the meaning of the Holy Qur’an best was our dear and grand Prophet (sa). Thus if an interpretation by the Holy Prophet (sa) becomes available, it is the duty of every Muslim to accept it instantly without hesitation, and whoever fails to do this would be guilty of heresy and philosophising.
The third standard is an interpretation by the companions of the Holy Prophet (sa). There is no doubt that the companionsra of the Holy Prophet (sa) were the first heirs of the lights of the Holy Prophet (sa) and of his knowledge, and that they were bestowed great grace by God Almighty and their perception was aided by God for they not only professed but practised.
The fourth standard is reflection upon the Holy Qur’an with one’s pure spirit, inasmuch as the Holy Qur’an has a relationship with purity of spirit. God the Glorious says:
This means that: A person with a purified heart appreciates the holy insights of the Qur’an on account of his relationship with the Qur’an. He recognizes them and smells them and his heart bears witness that this is the true way.
The light of his heart is a good standard for testing the truth. Unless a person is purified in practice and passes through the narrow path through which the prophets have passed, he should not become a commentator of the Qur’an out of impertinence and arrogance, for his commentary would be based upon his opinion and such commentary is forbidden by the Holy Prophet (sa) who has said:
[He who interprets the Qur’an on the basis of his opinion is in error, even if he should put forward a commentary which he considers right.]
The fifth standard is the Arabic lexicon, but the Holy Qur’an supplies so many means itself that it is not very necessary to have recourse to the lexicon, though it adds to one’s understanding. Sometimes by having recourse to the lexicon attention is drawn to the mysteries of the Holy Qur’an and a hidden matter is discovered.
The sixth standard of appreciating the spiritual system is the physical system, for there is complete accord between the two.
The seventh standard is the revelation and visions of the saints. This standard in a way comprises all other standards as the recipient of revelation is a complete reflection of the prophet whom he follows, and with the exception of prophethood and new commandments, he is bestowed everything that is bestowed on the prophet. The certain and true teaching is disclosed to him and he receives everything by way of bounty and favor that is bestowed on the prophet whom he follows. He does not indulge in conjecture, but speaks having seen and expounds having heard. This way is open for the Muslims for it cannot be that there should be no true heir.
—Barakat-ud-Du‘a, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 6, pp. 17-21
It should be remembered that we are not permitted to make any change in the text or sequence of any verse in the word of God, except when the Holy Prophet (sa) himself should have done so and it can be proved that he did so. In the absence of such proof we cannot disturb the sequence of the Holy Qur’an, nor can we add anything to it. If we do so, we would be guilty of an offense and would be accountable for it.
Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 8, p. 291
 The Holy Qur’an, 15:88.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:2.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:3.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:4.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:5.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:6.
 The Holy Qur’an, 1:7.
 The Holy Qur’an, 18:110.
 The Holy Qur’an, 7:159.
 The Holy Qur’an, 33:41.
 The Holy Qur’an, 56:80.