Jesus (as) Judaism Prophets The Holy Qur'an

The Need of the Holy Quran

MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 9 From Our Archives: THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN By Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad The Promised Messiah (Reprinted from the Review of Religions, Vol. II, 1903) The great object of Islam being to teach the doctrine of the Unity of God, the question has often been asked what was the need of the Holy Quran when the doctrine of Unity had already been revealed to the world in the Torah (the book of Moses). In answer to this ques- tion it should be borne in mind that Judaism no doubt originally taught the doctrine of Unity, but Judaism at the time of the revela- tion of the Quran was itself corrupt both in practice and doctrine. The pure religion of the Unity of God had been departed from by the Jews, and the doctrine of Unity contained in their books had no practical effect upon their lives. The grand aim for which man is created and the Word of God revealed had been utterly lost sight of. The recognition of the Divine Unity consists in a firm belief in the existence of God and His Oneness attended with an implicit obe- dience to Him, complete submission to His will and losing one’s self in His love. The Jewish books taught Unity indeed but the inner life of the Jews was not governed by the noble principles which underly the doctrine of the Unity of God, and their hearts were totally devoid of the deep expression of the grandeur and glory of God. Outwardly and formally they recognized Unity but their hearts were turned away from purity and under the control of Satan. Their lives were characterised by every form of iniquity such as worldliness im- pure thoughts and affections, deceit and falsehood. The honor and greatness due to God was given to priests and hermits and disgraceful deeds were done. Hypocrisy and deceit were predomi- nant in the hearts of those who pretended to be the teachers and reformers of the people. Moreover a mere formal recognition of the Unity of God is of no avail if the heart bows down in submission before a thousand dif- ferent idols. The person who assigns the glory and greatness which is due solely to God, to the means, plans and stratagems which he employs for the realization of an object, or gives a share of the 10 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1985 majesty and power of God to his own self or to any other creature, is also an idol worshipper though he may outwardly confess the Unity of God. Idols are not only images made of stone, brass, gold, silver or any other substance, but every object of reverence and passionate devotion, which should be due to God, is an idol in the sight of God. The Jewish sacred books however did not teach this noble significance of the doctrine of Unity and the Quran was, therefore, needed for its exposition to the world. The doctrine of the absolute Unity of God precluding faith or trust in everything else besides God was not known to the world until the Holy Quran revealed it. The adoration and reverence of senseless images is an act to which none but the most ignorant and superstitious would resort, but the most dangerous form of idolatry is that which cannot be easily discovered and which affects and vitiates the whole system like an imperceptible but obstinate disease. This lamentable disease prevailed among the Jews and the Bible did not prove an effective remedy for it; for the Bible did not teach the great truth underlying the Unity of God. The general prevalence of this disease, moreover, required a perfect liv- ing exemplar whose life, being governed by the practical principle of the absolute Unity of God, should have been a guidance and a direc- tion to mankind and a powerful remedy for destroying the disease. What is the true doctrine of the Unity of God which the Holy Quran requires us to believe and which is the only way to salva- tion? It is to believe in God as One and Alone in His person, and above every rival or partner whether it is an idol, a human being, a heavenly body, one’s ownself or one’s resources, plans or means. It is to regard none as powerful against Him, nor to consider anyone as the sustainer, the exalter, the abaser, the helper or the supporter as against the will of God. It is to love Him alone, to worship Him alone, to submit to Him alone, to fear Him alone and to centre all one’s hopes in Him alone. There are three requirements for a complete adherence to the doc- trine of Unity. Firstly, a man must believe in Unity in the person of God, i.e., he must regard everything as vain and naught before God. Secondly he must believe in Unity in the attributes of God and con- sider Divinity and Lordship as the attributes of none besides God, looking upon all those who seem to have an authority as having it from Him. Thirdly, there must be unity in the love, sincerity and devotion which he bears to God. In other words, nothing else must have a share of his love and devotion towards God and of the other MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 11 aspects of his adoration, and he must be completely lost in Him. These three aspects of the Divine Unity had not been taught by any book before the Quran. What had been taught by Moses and the Israelite prophets was not acted upon by the Jews and the Christians. The iniquity and gross immorality in which these people indulged at that time is a clear testimony to the truth of the statement that they admitted the existence of God with their lips, but their hearts were utter strangers to this exalting and noble faith. It is for this reason that the Quran condemns both the Jews and the Christians and says that if these people had acted upon the teachings of Moses and Jesus, they would have been granted sustenance both from heaven and from earth. The heavenly sustenance indicates the spiritual blessings which are granted to the righteous and faithful in heart such as heavenly signs, acceptance of prayer, visions and inspiration. Here they are also declared as having been deprived of earthly sustenance, because they did not obtain it by just and righteous means but by bending low upon earth and making use of vile means. Israelite Law, no doubt, taught the Unity of God, but the doctrine of Unity taught by it, fell far short of the sublime Unity revealed by the Holy Quran. This defect of teaching in itself called for a new revelation, while the necessity was further enhanced by the spiritual death of those who professed to inculcate this doctrine. The Jewish doctrine of Unity, imperfect as it was, was in their books and not in their hearts. They, therefore, needed a heavenly teacher who should have breathed the soul of Unity into their hearts, and a warm devo- tion in place of dull and vapid utterance of formal words. The Jews were dead and life had departed from them on account of the hard- ness of their hearts and their numerous transgressions. No spark of love for God and not the slightest trace of inclination to spirituality was left in them. Their books on account of their defective teachings and the numerous alterations hi their letter and spirit, could not in- spire a new life into, and furnish a perfect guidance to, their votaries or to the world at large. Therefore, Almighty God sent down His liv- ing Word like fresh and timely rain and to this Word which gave life did He invite them, that they might find life and salvation, being purified through it of their former errors and iniquities. The Holy Quran was, therefore, needed in the first place to teach a living Unity to the lifeless Jews; secondly, to inform them of their errors; and thirdly, to throw full light upon all matters relating to eschatology which had been but barely alluded to hi the Israelite law. 12 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1985 It is true that the seed of truth was sown with the revelation of Moses while that of Jesus gave the glad tidings of a future when that revelation was to be made perfect. As the seed that grows in a healthy condition gives the glad tidings of good fruits, the Gospel of Jesus gave the glad tidings of the revelation of a perfect law and an unerring guide. This was fulfilled in the Holy Quran. The seed which Moses had sown, therefore, ripened with the Quran. The Holy book brought with it the perfect blessings which made a clear distinction between truth and falsehood and perfected the religious truths and spiritual verities. This was the purport of the words of Moses in Deut. 32:2: “The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran.” In fact the different phases of law were made perfect only by the Quran. Its two great divisions, the one treating of the relation of man to God and the other of that of man to man, found complete and full development only in the Quran. The object of the Quran was to make the savage into a man, to teach the man the highest moral qualities and to make him Godly. This function the Holy Book performed with such success that every other law is a total failure in comparison with it. The Holy Quran was also needed to settle the differences between the Jews and the Christians relating to Jesus. This it has done in various places. A very important point of difference is that in rela- tion to which the following verse occurs in the Holy Quran: “O Jesus, I will cause you to die a natural death and will exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee from the charges of those who disbelieve.” (3:56) The Jews asserted as against the Christians that their prophet, i.e., Jesus, had been crucified and, therefore, according to the law of Moses he was accursed and his soul did not rise to heaven. This argu- ment they advanced as conclusive proof that Jesus was a false pro- phet. The Christians admitted the curse but said that he had been cursed for their sake, and that subsequently the curse being remov- ed, he rose to heaven where God seated him on His right hand. The verse quoted above condemns both views as serious errors. It states that Jesus did not suffer either a permanent or a temporary curse but that his soul rose to heaven, the happy abode to which the souls of the righteous rise, immediately after his death which did not take MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 13 place on the cross. The Mosaic Law makes curse the consequence of a death upon the cross and not of a mere suspension on it which does not result in death. The Quran plainly negates the death of Jesus upon the cross and consequently his subjection to curse and asserts in clear words that his soul, like the souls of the righteous, rose to heaven after death. Therefore, the Holy Quran refutes both the Jewish and Christian doctrines and asserts that he was not accursed as-his enemies and erring friends would have him, but died a pure death and was raised to heaven after his death like all other pro- phets. Thus- did the Holy Quran settle the much vexed question of the death of Jesus, but the Christians do not still admit the need of the Quran. The Quran brought the pure doctrine of the absolute Unity of God. It produced harmony between reason and religion. It carried the doctrine of Unity to its perfection. It furnished clear and con- clusive arguments for the Unity and attributes of the Divine Being. It gave reasons based on intellect, history and revelation, for the ex- istence of God. It dressed religion, which had up to that time no more value than can be given to a story, in scientific clothing. It clothed every doctrine with true wisdom. It brought to perfection the chain of religious truths which was hitherto imperfect. It took away the curse from Jesus, and it gave evidence of his being a true prophet and of his soul having risen to heaven to live with the righteous. In the face of these facts, no sensible person would assert that the Quran was not needed. It should be borne in mind that the Quran has itself clearly proved its need. Thus it says: “Know it that the earth had been dead, and God is now going to restore it to life again.” History bears evidence to the fact that immediately before the revelation of the Quran, every nation had depraved itself and all the people were sunk deep in vice. Pfender, notwithstanding his deter- mined enemity to, and blind prejudice against Islam, also bears testimony to the fact that the Jews and the Christians at the advent of our Holy Prophet were corrupt to the core and led grossly im- moral lives, though he adds to explain away the appearance of the Holy Prophet that the coming of a false prophet at the time of a general corruption was a warning to the Christians and Jews who had gone astray to reform themselves. Anyone having an ordinary 14 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1935 share of intelligence will clearly see that this explanation is simply an absurdity and an impertinence. Put in plain words, it means that finding the people of the earth in gross errors and turpitude, God in- tentionally led them into greater errors and brought about cir- cumstances which led millions of human beings farther away from the right path instead of doing something to bring them back to the truth. Is it true that when God sees the people gone astray, He inten- tionally leads them to greater destruction, and sends them imposters and false prophets when they need true guides and reformers? Do the Divine laws, as revealed in external nature, lend support to this conclusion, and is it thus that God visits the people when sufferings and adversities are unbearable? This is the most blasphemous charge against Divine justice and mercy. To what extreme does the love of this world lead! A weak human being is first called God and then an accursed person! The righteous prophet of God who delivered the world when it was plunged in evil and restored it to life when it was dead, is denied! What stronger evidence of the need of the Quran is needed? It came at a time when error raged in the world. It found the world blind and gave it light. It found it in error and gave it guidance. It found it dead and gave it life. The fact that the doctrine of the Unity of God had already been revealed does not in any way affect the need of the Quran, for as already shown, the doctrine of Unity as taught in previous books, was imperfect and did not aim at the high standard revealed by the Holy Quran. Moreover, even in that imperfect condition, it was only upon the lips and not in the hearts of its adherents, and the Holy Quran was, therefore, needed to impress it upon the hearts, and to make it a living principle for action instead of a formula for repetition. The doctrine of Unity had in fact been lost and the Quran brought it afresh to the memory of mankind. The reason why the Holy Quran has been termed Zikr (remembrance) is that it brought back to the memory that which had been forgotten. The argument against the need of the Quran applies, if there is the least weight in it, with equal force to the Mosaic Law itself, because the doctrine of Unity was not unknown before the revelation of the Law of Moses. Do not even the Jews and the Christians admit that this doctrine had been first revealed and taught to Adam, then to Seth, Noah, Abraham and the other prophets that went before Moses? The revelation of Moses is, therefore, open to the same MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 15 objection, viz., that it was not needed when the doctrine of Unity was already revealed and known before it. The same eternal and un- changeable God who revealed Himself to Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, revealed Himself to Moses, and Moses taught the same Unity which the earlier prophets had taught. The truth is that the doctrine of the Unity and existence of God was not first taught by the law of Moses but is of ancient origin. We must therefore, seek the principle which governs its repeated revela- tion in the world. A cursory glance at the world’s history will show that there had been periods in it when the teaching of Unity had been forgotten and men had abandoned it. This principle was then held in contempt and disregard. Almightly God had, on such occasions, raised the prophets and vouchsafed fresh revelations to the world in order to deliver people from the evil of shirk into which they had fallen and to bring them back to righteousness and the Unity of God which had been lost. Thousands of times has this doctrine grown rusty and as many times has it been polished and restored to its original purity. With its rustiness, its true worth is hidden from the human eye and accor- dingly for a time it appears to be quite forgotten. A prophet of God, therefore, again appears to manifest its beauty and light and to dispel the darkness from its face. Thus have light and darkness been gaining the supremacy alternately in the world. The most unfailing test that can be applied to judge the claims of a prophet is to see the time when he appears and the transformation which he brings about.This is the safest method which a seeker after truth should adopt. He should consider with an unprejudiced mind the condi- tions, both as to principles and actions, of the people among whom a prophet appears, before his appearance and after he has done his work. If he comes in time of need and leaves them when that need is satisfied, this is an irrefutable proof of his truth. A prophet is needed to deliver those who are involved in sin in the same manner as a physician is needed to cure the sick. If anyone were to apply this sound test to the claims of our Holy Prophet and compare the pre-Islamic Arabs with the companions of the Holy Prophet, he would be convinced that the Holy Prophet far excelled all other prophets in his sanctifying power, in the wholesomeness of his influence, and in the abundance of his bless- ings and that the need of the Quran and the Holy Prophet was far more clear and easy of demonstration than the need of any other 16 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1985 prophet or book. What great need did Jesus, for instance, satisfy and what is the proof that he actually did satisfy any need? Did he work any great transformation in the faith, morals and customs of the Jews? Or was he successful in purifying the lives of his chosen apostles? Both ques- tions, we are sorry to note, must be answered in the negative. All that can be proved is that Jesus had gathered about him a number of avaricious men who were guilty of treachery and faithlessness to their master. Was this the effect of teachings which are boasted as unequalled in their sublimity? It should also be borne in mind that the Gospel teachings have no superiority over the teachings of the earlier prophets. The teachings contained in the Gospels have, on the other hand, been all taken from earlier sources including the Talmud. The Jews have always forcibly asserted that there is no originality in the Gospel-teachings but that they are only plagiarisms from Jewish sacred books. One Jewish author has traced whole passages of the teachings of Jesus in the words of earlier sages. The Christians, while admitting this charge of plagiarism, say that the object of the mission of Jesus was not to teach morality but to offer his blood as an atonement for the immoralities of the world and to be subjected to curse. This is however a serious error into which they have fallen. They think that the original Law was con- summated in the Mosaic Law and that therefore, the Law revealed in the Quran was not needed. The truth is that since men are apt to forget and be remiss in acting upon the moral injunctions which are revealed to them through a prophet, a new prophet is required after some time to re-establish the same principles and make men act upon them. Every new age stands in need of a new reformer. But the Quran was not needed only to satisfy these two needs; it was also needed to bring the teachings of the earlier books to completion and perfection. To take one instance only; the Mosaic Law laid stress upon vengeance only in all cases, while Jesus taught of unconditional forbearance and non-resistance. Both these teachings were required by the special circumstances of the time when they were taught, but being onesided, they could not furnish rules for all ages. As the teaching of the extreme vengeance of Mosaic Law was abrogated by the Gospel, the Gospel-teaching of extreme forbearance itself MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 17 required to be modified. Hence the need of the Holy Quran which teaches the middle path in which the punishment of the offender or forbearance ought to be resorted to as the occasion requires. Thus both the Mosaic Law and the Gospels take the extreme course while the Quran teaches the golden mean in all cases. The essence of the teaching in all three books is the same, but the first two laid stress only upon one side of the question owing to the peculiar requirements of the time and the circumstances when and under which they were revealed and the third, meant as it was for the whole of humanity for all times, had the flexibility in it. The Mosaic Law takes one extreme and the Gospel the opposite, the one requir- ing vengeance in all cases and the other unconditional forbearance, but the Holy Quran reveals the wise path of acting according to the occasion. The teachings of the Mosaic Law and the Gospel are thus enclosed with true wisdom in the Holy Quran. If the Holy Quran had not come, the law revealed in the Mosaic Law and the Gospel would have been like the arrow shot by a blind man which, if it hits the mark once by chance, goes wide a thousand times. In short, the Pentateuch contained law in the form of stories and the Gospel taught it in the form of parables while the Holy Quran presented it to seekers after truth, clothed in true wisdom. The excellent teachings revealed in the Holy Quran are, thus, far above those contained in the Bible, Nay the whole of the Bible can- not stand against a single short chapter of the Holy Quran entitled the Fatiha which contains only seven verses and which discloses such vast treasures of spiritual wisdom, excellent religious truths and the highest and most precious verities arranged in natural order and methodical succession of parts as are not to be met within the books of Moses and Jesus, even though one should waste his whole life in turning over their pages. The word of God shows its Divine origin by the Divine power which lies hidden in it just as His handiwork shows His wonderful skill. It should be further remembered that the Holy Quran contains all the directions which are necessary for the perfec- tion of man. The Bible is like an inn which once afforded lodging and rest to wayfarers but after a time, heavy storms and violent earthquakes levelled it to the ground. The great building which had once separate apartments for different functions, lay in such waste and total disorganization that the whole was nothing but a heap of bricks. The Lord of the inn took pity on the travellers and prepared a new inn, 18 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1985 more spacious than the first and providing every sort of accommoda- tion and all necessities for the comfort of the travellers. In its preparation the Lord of the house while making use of some of the bricks of the old building that lay in ruins, added a great deal of fresh material, in order to provide for every requirement of the travellers. This second inn is the Holy Quran: let every one who has eyes, behold. In connection with the perfection of the teachings revealed in the Holy Quran and the imperfection of those revealed to Moses and Jesus, it is necessary to remove an objection. The incompleteness of the earlier teachings is due not to any defect in capability and capaci- ty of those for whom these teachings were meant. The Israelites to whom the mission of Moses was directed had passed about four hun- dred years in the slavery of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and under this long subjugation under the tyranny of’their masters, they had become, as it were, utter strangers to principles of justice and equity. As a general rule, the principles to which the masters of a country adhere, find their way into the subject people also. People who are subjected to tyranny, must after a time grow tyrants themselves; while those who are under a just ruler, must grow just in private. The king is as it were a teacher of his people. The Israelites had for many generations been in the bondage of foreign tyrants and their constant subjection to the tyranny and cruelty of their masters fostered in them a spirit which was quite inconsistent with principles of justice and equality. It was, therefore, the first and primary duty of Moses to indoctrinate them in the principles of justice and hence his teachings laid great stress upon this point. The pentateuch of Moses is not wholly devoid of the teachings of forbearance and mercy but the vein of justice runs through its pages, and its object is also to put a restraint upon undue cruelty and vin- dictiveness. Such is not the object of the Gospels. They lay stress upon forgiveness and forbearance. The reason of this is not far to seek. The Jews had carried to excess the doctrine of retaliation taught by the Mosaic Law, and instead of kindness and fellow- feeling, rancor and spite had grown up in their hearts. The teaching of Jesus in the Gospels is evidently addressed to a people whom the speaker knows to be men of a rancorous and vin- dictive nature and whom he wishes to instruct in the high moral qualities of kindness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness to which they are utter strangers. MARCH 1985 THE NEED OF THE HOLY QURAN 19 Hence the propriety of the teachings of Moses and Jesus is un- questionable though it cannot be denied that both doctrines were like special or local laws and from their very nature unsuitable for per- manent and universal adoption. The true and universal law is revealed in the Holy Quran which abrogated all previous laws. Any one who enters into the spirit of the Holy book and goes to the depth of its true significance, will clearly see that the Quran has neither laid stress upon strict vengeance as the Mosaic Law did in its doctrine of retaliation and its battle, nor has it gone to the opposite extreme by emphasizing absolute and un- qualified forgiveness of all injuries, but adopts the middle path by enjoining that which is right and forbidding that which is wrong. It required us to do that which is right, both according to reason and law, and to refrain from doing what reason and law do not permit. The laws and injunctions of the Quran do not, therefore, relate to particular actions but lay down general rules for a right course of conduct. It does not, for instance, tell us to take an eye for an eye in every case or to forgive injury however evil its consequences may be, but tells us to apply our reason and judgment to the circumstances of every case and act in a manner which is likely to produce the greatest good. By enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, the Holy Quran has given us general laws for our guidance and thus introduced scien- tific principles in religious injunctions. Before proceeding to take any step, we are required to consider what will actually be the right way? Whether it is right to forgive or punish or to give in charity or not to give, is a question of circumstances in each case. According to the Quranic teachings, therefore, our primary consideration in every case should be the propriety of the occasion. We have so far discussed every side of the question relating to the need of the Quran. One point only remains to be considered. Did Islam wage war with the Jews and the Christians to compel them to accept its doctrines? This asserted compulsion has no basis at all. Islam never took the initiative in the battles which it had to fight. It was compelled to take up the sword against those who had either ag- gressed or assisted the aggressors. The wrath of God was, therefore, moved to punish the offenders. But His mercy still saved from the deserved punishment such as accepted Islam or paid the jizya. This favor was also in accordance with the Divine laws, for whenever there is a divine visitation such as a famine or a plague, the hearts of 20 THE REVIEW OF RELIGIONS MARCH 1985 men are naturally turned to humbleness, repentance, prayers and charitable deeds to avert the Divine punishment. This shows clearly that God Himself inspires into the hearts of men a remedy averting the evil. The ardent prayers of Moses averted many a time the punishment of the Israelites. In short, the Islamic fights were a punishment from God to the aggressors, in which the way was still open for repentance and obtaining mercy of God. There is no doubt that the early Islamic wars were not undertaken to compel the Jews and Christians to accept the doctrine of Unity preached by Islam. Wars were resorted to at the express command of the Almighty as a punishment for the offenders who either took up arms against the holy faith for its extirpation or assisted the ag- gressors or laid obstructions in the way of Islam intending to hinder its progress. These three causes necessitated a severe chastisement of the offenders and Almighty God willed that it should be effected by means of the sword. Another unjust and unwarranted charge against Islam is that it preached peace during the first thirteen years under the most cruel tortures and persecutions of its enemies because it lacked force at that time, but that as soon as it had sufficient force to make its ap- pearance in the field of battle it declared war. Such a charge would have had some foundation if the opponents of the Holy Prophet had not committed the heinous deeds of cruelty and bloodshed or plotted to take away his life as they did at Mecca, and the Prophet had left Mecca of his own accord and not on account of their evil designs. The slightest acquaintance with the circumstances of the Prophet’s life at Mecca would convince every sensible person of the unreasonableness of such a supposition. Even the enemies of Islam cannot deny—nay they have borne testimony to the fact—that the Holy Prophet met the objections and persecutions of his enemies with great fortitude and strictly enjoined forbearance and non- resistance of evil upon his companions. There was no end to the severe persecutions by his enemies. They shed the blood of many an innocent person and inflicted wounds and injuries upon whomsoever they could lay their hands on. An attack on the Prophet himself was at last plotted to bring the whole movement to an end. At this critical moment Almighty God led His messenger out of all danger to Medina and gave him the glad tidings that those who had taken up the sword against Islam would perish by (continued on page 34)