Continuation of an extract from ‘Our Teaching’ in ‘Kishti-e-Nuh’ (Noah’s Ark) by the Promised Messiah(as), an important book of the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Hadhrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad(ra), son of the Promised Messiah(as), wrote in the foreword to ‘Our Teaching’: ‘This is a time when the darkness of materialism has overspread the entire face of the earth and obscured people’s vision. Many there are who profess faith but are deprived of its true sweetness and strength. They are unaware of the One Living, Omnipresent God… This book is a torch of guidance through which every Muslim, nay every man with a craving for truth and spirituality, can rekindle his inner lamp and illuminate his heart.’
The Door of Revelation is Open Even Now
Do not think that Revelation from God is not possible in the future; that it was possible only in the past: do not think that the Holy Spirit cannot come down. I tell you truly that every door can be closed but the door for the coming down of the Holy Spirit. Open all the doors of your heart to receive it. With your own hands you remove yourself to a distance from that sun, where you yourself close the window through which light can enter. Therefore, get up at once and throw this window open, so that the light of the sun should, of its own accord, enter your heart with the simplicity and inevitability of a natural process. When God has not closed the doors of His blessings upon the world, when in fact He has multiplied them even more than before, do you venture to presume that he has closed upon you the doors of His spiritual blessings, even at a time when they were needed most? No, no, not at all; rather that door has been opened beyond any possible shadow of doubt. Now, in accordance with His teaching as given in Surah Fatihah [opening chapter of Holy Qur’an], when the door of all earlier blessings has been opened for you, why do you decline to receive them? Create a thirst for this spring, and then, of itself, the water will begin to gush out. For this milk cry like a child, so that it should well up in the breast. Begin to deserve mercy, so that you should be shown mercy. Show anxiety and deep concern, so that your minds should be set at rest. Cry out with pain, again and again, so that a hand should stretch itself and take hold of you. Indeed, how terribly difficult is the way which is the way of the Lord! But, verily, it is made easy for those who jump into the abyss, resolutely determined to face destruction and death.
Blessed are they who for the sake of the Lord wage a war against their own selves; while truly ill-starred are they who for the sake of their baser selves wage a war against the Lord, and refuse to mould themselves in obedience to His will. Whoesoever, for the sake of his own self, evades a commandment of God, will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Strive therefore to the utmost that not a jot or syllable of the Holy Qur’an should bear witness against you, and cause you to be apprehended on that account. For indeed even a single grain of evil is punishable.
The time is very short, the mission of your life not yet fulfilled. Walk with speed, for the evening draws nigh. Whatever you have to put before the Lord, examine it well, and as often as you can, lest some defect remain to cause irreparable loss: or lest you take something with you which in fact should amount to no more than filthy and spurious goods, not worthy to be presented at a royal court.
Elevated Position of the Holy Qur’an
I have been given to understand that there are some among you who reject the Hadith [(Traditions)]. If this is so, then these people are in manifest error. I have never taught that they should hold such views. Quite to the contrary, I hold very firmly that for your guidance God has provided three things. The foremost among these is the Holy Qur’an, which sets forth the unity of God, His grandeur and greatness, and decides all points in dispute between the Jews and the Christians. Further, the Qur’an forbids that you worship anything other than God – neither man, nor beast, the sun nor the moon, nor any other heavenly body, nor material means, nor your own selves. Therefore beware. Do not take a single step in contravention of anything contained in the Holy Book.
Verily, I tell you truly that whosoever evades even the least of the seven hundred commandments embodied in the Holy Qur’an he slams the door of salvation upon himself. The real and perfect paths of salvation have been opened only by the Holy Qur’an; all others were only its shadows. Therefore you should study this Holy Scripture with the utmost attention and deepest thought; and you should love it as you have never loved anything else. For, indeed, as God has conveyed to me, ‘Al Khairu Kullahu Fil Qur’an’ i.e., all good lies in the Qur’an. All kinds of good are to be found in it – and this is the truth. Unfortunate, indeed, are the people who give preference to other things over it. The Holy Qur’an is the fountainhead for your salvation, for all betterment and success. There is not even a single spiritual need which has not been met for you in this Holy Book. The supporter or falsifier of your Faith on the Day of Judgement would be the Holy Qur’an; and apart from this Book there is no other under the heavens which can provide you with direct guidance. It is indeed a great blessing of God upon you that He has bestowed on you a book like it.
Verily, I tell you truly that the book which has been read upon you, had it been read upon the Christians, they would not have perished; and the blessing and guidance which has been vouchsafed to you, had it been extended to the Jews, in place of the Torah, many of their sects would not have ended by denying the Day of Judgment. Realise, therefore, the value of the blessing bestowed on you. It is a precious blessing, and a great treasure. Without the Holy Qur’an, the whole world would have been no better that a dirty clot of half formed flesh. Indeed it is a book as compared to which all other scripture and sources of guidance amount to nothing at all.
The Holy Qur’an can purify a man within a week, provided there is no attempt to get away from it in form or spirit. The Qur’an can make you like the Prophets, provided you do not try yourself to run away from it. Apart from the Holy Qur’an what book is there at the very outset which has taught its readers a prayer like:
Guide us in the right path, The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings…(Ch.1:Vs.6-7)
And has thus held out to them a great hope, namely, the hope of the way being shown to them which would lead them to the attainment of those blessings which were bestowed on those who were of the Prophets, the Siddeeqs [truthful], the Shuhada [martyrs], and the Saliheen [pure]. Therefore elevate your resolve, and do not reject this invitation of the Qur’an when it calls you to work for attainment of the blessings given to the earlier peoples. God in fact is inclined to bestow on you even more. God has made you inherit all their spiritual and material substance, but until the Day of Qiyamah [Judgment] these will not pass away from you to anyone else. God will not keep you deprived of the blessing of Revelation, and of the tangible forms of communion generally spoken of as (mukalamaat) and (mukhatabaat). He will consummate all those blessings on you which He ever bestowed on others. But whosoever by way of insolence shall lie and shall claim to have received Revelation from Him, when in fact he had received no such Revelation, or claim that he had the honour of communion with God of the kind called mukalamah and mukhatabah, when in fact no such honour had been bestowed upon him, then, with God and all His angels as my witness I declare, that such a one shall perish and be destroyed for having lied about his Creator and for having perpetrated a fraud.
The Explanatory Position of the Sunnah
The second instrument for guidance vouchsafed to the Muslims is the Sunnah, i.e., the measures adopted by the Holy Prophet(saw) with a view to the exposition of the Holy Qur’an and its being put into actual tangible practice. For instance, looking at the surface only, there appears to be no specification in the Qur’an of rak‘aats [postures] in the case of the five daily obligatory prayers, how many for what prayers, but the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet(saw) has made all these things very clear.
No one should fall into the error that the Hadith and the Sunnah are one and the same thing, for what is called the Hadith came to be collected a hundred and fifty years afterwards, while the Sunnah existed from the very outset side by side with the Holy Qur’an. After the Holy Qur’an, the greatest debt of gratitude the Muslims owe to anything is to the Sunnah. The obligation on God and His Apostle in regard to the guidance of mankind was only twofold, namely that by sending down the Holy Book, God by means of His word indicated His will and pleasure, in fulfilment of the demand inherent in the Divine Law; while the duty which developed upon the Holy Prophet(saw) was this that by putting it into actual practice he should clearly demonstrate it in all its aspects in actual operation. Therefore he transformed into action what had been said in the form of words, and by his actual practice solved a number of difficulties. It is not proper to say that this duty devolved upon the Hadith, since Islam had established itself upon the earth long before the Hadith came to be collected. Did not the people offer their prayers at the time when the Hadith had not yet been collected? Did they not pay the Zakat or perform the Hajj? Or, were they ignorant as to what was permissible for them and what was not?
Supportive Position of Hadith
Of course, the third means of guidance is the Hadith, because many points in regard to history, ethics and jurisprudence are to be found explained fully in it; and the great utility of the Hadith lies in the fact that it is a servant of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Some people who are ignorant as to the real position of the Holy Qur’an, here assign to Hadith the position of a judge on the Qur’an, as did the Jews in regard to some of their traditions. We on the other hand look upon the Hadith as a servant of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, the existence of servants being in no way derogatory to the master, being in fact a sign of his importance and grandeur. The Holy Book is the Word of God, while the Sunnah is the act of the Holy Prophet(saw), the Hadith being a supporting witness for the Sunnah. It is wrong to say (God forbid) that the Hadith is a judge on the Holy Qur’an. If there is any judge on the Holy Qur’an, it is the Holy Book itself. The Hadith, which in any case has an element of speculation in it, cannot be given a superior position, being no more than a supporting argument. The Qur’an and the Sunnah have done all the real work, the Hadith doing no more than supplying some additional verification. How can the Hadith be in the position of a judge for the Holy Qur’an?
The Holy Book and the Sunnah were extending guidance to mankind at a time when as yet there was no sign of the so-called judge. Therefore, never say that the Hadith is a judge on the Holy Qur’an; say rather that the Hadith supplies further supportive evidence for the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Of course the Sunnah, undoubtedly, is a thing which indicates the will of the Qur’an, and it signifies the path on which the Holy Prophet(saw) put his companions. The Sunnah is not a name for the things which came to be written and collected a hundred or a hundred and fifty years afterwards. These are called the Hadith. The Sunnah, on the other hand, is the practical example that has, from the very earliest beginning, existed, all along, in the practical actions of the Muslims, their number extending to thousands at the most conservative estimate. But even though in a great part of it the Hadith occupies the position of speculation, still, where it does not run counter to the Holy Qur’an, it deserves to be accepted, serving as a supporter for the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, with a large store-house of material, bearing on many Islamic questions.
Failure to appreciate the Hadith, therefore, is tantamount to cutting away a large part of the body of Islam. But of course, if a Hadith falls counter to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and counter to other Ahadith which are in accord with Holy Book, or it stands in opposition to the Sahih Bukhari, it should not be accepted, for acceptance thereof would imply rejection of the Holy Qur’an, and of all those Ahadith which stand in accord with the Holy Book. I am satisfied that no righteous person would want to subscribe to such a belief. In any case give due recognition to Hadith and derive benefit form it to the fullest possible extent, for they come from the Holy Prophet(saw) and unless they are rejected by the Qur’an and the Sunnah, you should not reject them. You should adhere to the Hadith to such an extent that no action of yours, no pause, no performance, and no failure to perform any work, should be without basis in Hadith. But if there is a Hadith which stands in contradiction of what has been stated in the Qur’an, you should exercise your mind to reconcile it in interpretation; but where no such reconciliation is possible, the Hadith should be rejected and thrown aside, since it cannot be taken to have come from the Holy Prophet(saw). But if there is a weak Hadith, which stands, nevertheless, in accord with the Holy Qur’an, it is to be accepted, for the Qur’an has confirmed it.
Criterion for Judging Ahadith Embracing Prophecies
But if there is a Hadith embracing a prophecy which the Muhadditheen have adjudged as weak, while in your own time, or at some time earlier than yours, the prophecy contained in that Hadith has been fulfilled, then that Hadith has to be accepted as authentic, and all those who adjudged it weak and failed to accept it, thinking that it was a fabrication, will be held to have been in error. The number of Ahadith containing prophecies runs into hundreds, and most of these by the Muhaditheen have been held to be fabricated or defective. Therefore when one of these is fulfilled and you try to avoid the point, saying that you could not accept it since it was weak, or since this or that narrator in the link through which it had come was not a righteous man, then such a rejection on your part would be due to your faith-lessness, for you would be rejecting a Hadith of which the reliability had been established by God, even to the extent of fulfilment of the prophecy contained in it.
Now suppose there are one thousand Ahadith of this kind, held to be weak and unacceptable by the Muhadditheen, but suppose the prophecies contained in them come to be fulfilled, would you reject them, and also reject all the one thousand arguments in support of the veracity of Islam which the fulfilment of the prophecies in question stood for? If you do anything of the kind, you would become, thereby, enemies of Islam. Allah says: He does not reveal His ghaib (future) except when He chooses to do so to an Apostle. Therefore, to whom is a true prophecy to be attributed if not to a true Prophet? Is it not more in an accord with one’s righteousness of mind to say on such occasions that the Muhaddith in question had erred in so far as he had rejected as weak a Hadith which in fact was quite reliable? Or would it be more proper for us to say that in supporting a weak Hadith with the testimony of actual events God Himself had been guilty of an error? For you the guiding principle in any case should be that you follow even a weak Hadith, provided it is not counter to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, or counter to other Ahadith in accord with the Holy Book.
However, great care is needed on this point, for it is a fact that there exist a large number of fabricated Ahadith which have caused a great deal of disruption in Islam. All the conflicting sects take their stand on this or that Hadith, as suits their needs, so that even such a clear and well-established question as of the prescribed obligatory prayers has given rise to extreme differences of views. Some cry amen in a loud voice, audible to others, while some hold this should be done in one’s own mind. Some follow the recitation of the Fatihah by the Imam with similar simultaneous recitation of the same on the part of the congregation, each in his own mind, while others believe that such recitation spoils one’s prayer and is, therefore, forbidden. Some hold their hands folded on the breast, while others hold them at the navel. The real cause of all these differences lie in the Ahadith [as the Qur’an states in Ch.23:V.54]
كُلُّ حِزْبٍۢ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُوْنَ
i.e. each group being pleased with what it has in its hand.