Religious Concepts

Revelation, Inspiration, Vision and Dream

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Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Promised Messiah & 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) explains what revelation is, and who is able to receive it.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam – Vol. II. pp. 31-43

I tell you truly that every door can be closed but the door of the descent of the Holy Spirit is never closed. Open the doors of your hearts so that it might enter into them.

There is no safeguarding law through following which we can secure ourselves absolutely against mistakes. That is the reason why the philosophers, who framed the rules of logic and invented the methods of discussion and built the arguments of philosophy, fell continuously into error. They left as the legacy of their ignorance hundreds of false notions and mistaken philosophies and vain discourses. This shows that it is impossible to arrive at the truth of every matter and to determine the correct doctrines as the result of one’s own research without making a mistake. We have never known any individual, nor heard of one or read of one in any book of history, who was free from error in the whole field of his vision and reflection. It follows, therefore, that it is basically impossible to find people who, through the study of the laws of nature and squaring their conscience with the circumstances of the world, carried their research to the highest level of truth, without any possibility of mistake…

Obviously, if man cannot escape error through his own knowledge and if God (Who is Gracious and Merciful, and is free from every mistake and knows the truth of every matter) does not help His servants through His true revelation, how could we humble creatures emerge out of the darknesses of ignorance and error, and how could we be delivered from the calamities of doubt and suspicion? I, therefore, affirm with full conviction that the wisdom and mercy and sustaining love of God Almighty demand that from time to time, when He deems it right, He should create men who should be recipients of revelation for the purpose of ascertaining true doctrines and establishing correct morals, and who should have bestowed upon them the capacity of impressing their teachings upon others so that mankind, who have been created for true guidance, should not be deprived of their needed good fortune.

—Purani Tehrirain, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 20-21

The Hidden World of Revelation 

God Almighty has divided His wonderful universe into three parts.

(1) The world which is manifest and can be felt through the eyes and the ears and other physical senses and through ordinary instruments. 

(2) The world which is hidden and which can be understood through reason and conjecture. 

(3) The world which is hidden beyond hidden, which is so imperceptible that few are aware of it. That world is entirely unseen; reason has not been granted the ability to reach it, except through mere conjecture. This world is disclosed only through visions, revelation, inspiration, and not by any other means. 

As is well established, it is the way of Allah that for the discovery of the first two worlds that we have mentioned He has bestowed upon man different types of faculties and powers. In the same way, the Absolute Bounteous has appointed a means for man for the discovery of the third world; and that means is revelation, inspiration and visions. This means is not allowed to be wholly suspended at any time; indeed, those who comply with the conditions for achieving it have, throughout, been its recipients and will continue to be such. 

As man has been created for unlimited progress and God Almighty is free from deficiencies, miserliness and holding-back, it would be an unworthy thought that He put into the heart of man the eagerness to learn the secrets of all the three worlds and yet has deprived him wholly of the knowledge of the means of acquiring knowledge of the third world. This impels wise people to believe in the permanent need of inspiration and visions and they do not confine revelation, like the Aryas, to the four Rishis beside whom it is impossible for a fifth person to arrive at that excellence. Instead, wise people, believing in the absolute bounty of God Almighty, deem the door of inspiration ever open and do not confine it to any country or religion. It is true, however, that it is limited to the straight path. By treading along this path these blessings can be achieved, inasmuch as it is necessary for the achievement of everything to follow the rules and methods which are necessary for its achievement. Wise people do not deny the wonders of the world of visions. They have to admit that the Absolute Benefactor, Who has bestowed upon man faculties and powers for the discovery of every little matter in the first world, would not deprive man of the means of discovering the grand affairs of the third world through which a true and perfect relationship with God Almighty can be established, and true and certain understanding having been achieved, the lights of heaven become manifest in this very world. This method is also open, like the methods of discovering the other two worlds, and the truthful people adopt it with great conviction and follow it and obtain its fruits. 

The wonders of this third world are numberless. In comparison with the other two worlds, they are like the sun as compared to a grain of poppy seed. To insist that the mysteries of that world should be wholly revealed through reason would be like shutting one’s eyes and insisting that visible things should become perceptible through the sense of smell. The wonders of the third world totally frustrate reason. No one need be surprised at the creation of souls for in this very world such mysteries are revealed to those who have experience of visions, that reason wholly fails to penetrate their reality. At times, a person who has a capacity to see visions can see someone from a distance of hundreds of miles despite numberless intervening obstructions. In fact, on some occasions, in a state of complete wakefulness, he can hear his voice also, and it is even more wonderful that sometimes the other person can hear the voice of the first one. On occasions, in a vision resembling the state of wakefulness, he can meet the souls of those who have passed on. As a general rule, meeting with all dwellers of graves – blessed or benighted – is possible in this manner. I myself have had such experiences. 

This refutes entirely the doctrine of the transmigration of souls current among the Hindus. The greatest wonder is that sometimes one possessing the capacity for vision, through concentration, appears to another person, with the permission of God Almighty, at a distance of hundreds of miles in a state of complete wakefulness without his body moving from its place. Reason holds that a person cannot be at two places at the same time, yet this impossibility becomes possible in the third world. In the same way, a person of understanding witnesses hundreds of wonders with his own eyes and is surprised at the denial of those who altogether reject the wonders of the third world. I have witnessed the wonders and rare visions of that world with my own eyes approximately five thousand times and have experience of them happening to myself. 

It would take a large volume to record details of these experiences. One wonderful aspect of these experiences is that some matters which have no external existence come into being through divine power. The author of Futuhat and Fusus and other great Sufis have recorded a number of their own experiences of this kind in their compilations. But as there is a great difference between hearing and seeing, I could not have obtained that certainty by merely reading these accounts which I have acquired through my own experience. I recall that in a vision I saw that I had drawn up with my own hand certain divine decrees which related to the future and then presented the paper to God Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Glorious, for His signature. (It should be borne in mind that it often happens in visions and true dreams that some divine attributes of beauty or glory appear in human form to the person seeing the vision and he imagines the form to be God Almighty. This experience is well known to those who are favoured with visions and cannot be denied). In short, I presented that book to that personification of beauty, which appeared as God Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Incomparable and the Unfathomable, in the state of my vision. On my presenting that document, God Almighty, Who appeared in the form of a ruler, dipped His pen in red ink and sprinkled it in my direction and with the ink that remained at the point of the pen He signed the document. Thereupon the vision came to an end and when I opened my eyes I saw several drops of red ink fall on my clothes and two or three of them fell on the cap of one ‘Abdullah of Sannaur who was sitting near me at the time. That red ink which was part of the vision became materialized and became visible externally. 

I have seen several other visions of the type which it would take too long to set down, but whereby my own experience confirmed that sometimes a matter that is observed in a vision assumes external form by the command of Allah. These matters cannot be appreciated through reason alone. Indeed a person who is afflicted with the pride of his reason hears these things and affirms arrogantly that they are impossible and false and that the person who claims to have had such experience is either a liar or is mad or is self-deceived and for lack of proper research, has not been able to penetrate to the reality. Such a one does not reflect that these matters are testified to by thousands of the righteous from their personal experiences, and of which they undertake a demonstration to those who might keep company with them. Can they be set aside with mere verbal denials? 

The truth of the matter is that, apart from the wonders of the world of vision, reason has not been able to comprehend fully even that which pertains to the world of reason and there are millions of divine mysteries which are still hidden and beyond the reach of the wise.

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 175-181, footnote

Man’s Ability to Receive Revelation 

As God has invested man with the faculty of reason for the understanding, to some degree, of elementary matters, in the same way God has vested in him a hidden faculty of receiving revelation. When human reason arrives at the limit of its reach, then at that stage God Almighty, for the purpose of leading His true and faithful servants to the perfection of understanding and certainty, guides them through revelation and visions. Thus the stages which reason could not reach are traversed by means of revelation and visions, and seekers after truth thereby arrive at full certainty. This is the way of Allah, to guide to which prophets have appeared in the world. Without treading this path, no one has ever arrived at true and perfect understanding. But a poor dry philosopher is in such a hurry that he desires everything to be disclosed at the stage of reason. He does not know that reason cannot carry a burden beyond its strength, nor can it step further than its capacity. He does not reflect that, to carry a person to his desired excellence, God Almighty has bestowed upon him not only the faculty of reason but also the faculty of experiencing visions and revelations. It is the height of misfortune to make use of only the elementary means out of those that God has, out of His perfect wisdom, bestowed upon man for the purpose of recognizing God, and to remain ignorant of the rest. It is extremely unwise to let those faculties atrophy through lack of use and to derive no benefit from them. A person who does not use the faculty of receiving revelation and denies its existence cannot be a true philosopher, whereas the existence of this faculty has been established by the testimony of thousands of the righteous and all men of true understanding have arrived at perfect understanding through this means.

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 87-90

Non-Prophets Can also Receive Revelation

Some ignorant clerics go so far in their denial that they assert that the door of revelation is altogether closed and that it is not open to a Muslim to enable him to perfect his faith through this bounty and then to act righteously under the urge of his faith.

The answer to those who think like this is that if the Muslims are so unfortunate and blind and are the worst of people, why have they been named the best of people by God Almighty? The truth is that those who think like this are themselves foolish and stupid. As God Almighty has taught the Muslims the prayer that is set out in the Surah al-Fatihah, He has also designed to bestow upon them the bounty that was bestowed upon the prophets; that is to say, the bounty of converse with the Divine which is the fountainhead of all bounties. Has God Almighty merely cheated us with this prayer? What good can there be in a useless and fallen people who are even worse than the women of Israel? 

Obviously, the mother of Moses (as) and the mother of Jesus (as) were both women and, as our opponents also believe, they were not prophets. Yet they were favoured with divine revelation. Is it to be imagined that if a Muslim were to have such a pure soul as that of Abraham (as) and were to be so obedient to God Almighty as to cast aside his ego altogether, and were to be so absorbed in the love of God Almighty that he should entirely lose his own self, yet he cannot be the recipient of revelation like the mother of Moses? Can any reasonable person attribute such miserliness to God Almighty? My only response to such people is:

لَعْنَةُ اللهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِيْنَ [1]

The truth is that when these people became the insects of the earth, and the only insignia of Islam left in them were their turbans, beards, circumcision, a few verbal affirmations, and mere formalities of observing prayer and fasting, God Almighty deadened their hearts. Thousands of dark veils covered their eyes and they lost all signs of spiritual life. They thus denied the possibility of converse with the Divine. This denial is, in truth, a denial of Islam; but since their hearts are dead, they do not realise their own true condition. 

Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Part V, Ruhani Khaza’in vol. 21, pp. 310-311

O ye Muslims! Beware that such thinking is sheer ignorance and stupidity. If Islam is such a dead religion, whom can you invite to it? Will you carry its corpse to Japan or will you present it to Europe? Who would be foolish enough to fall in love with a dead religion that is bereft of all blessing and spirituality such as appeared in the religions of the past? In those religions even women received revelation, as was the case with the mother of Moses and the mother of Jesus, but your men are not equal even to those women. O ye stupid and blind ones, our Holy Prophet, our lord and master (thousands of blessings be on him) was ahead of all prophets in his spiritual grace. The grace of previous Prophets came to an end at a certain stage and now those peoples and their religions are dead. There is no life in them. But the grace of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) continues till the Day of Judgement. That is why it is not needed that a Messiah should come from outside for his people. To be brought up under the shadow of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) can convert a humble person into a Messiah, as God has done in my case. 

—Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 20, p. 389

Revelation: the Highest Stage of Divine Understanding 

Our claim is true and is clearly established that by treading along the straight path a true seeker can become the recipient of divine revelation. My own experience testifies to it. Besides, every reasonable person can understand that there is no higher stage of the understanding of the divine in this world than that a person should converse with his Gracious Lord – glory be to Him. This is the stage where souls are completely satisfied and all doubts and suspicions are removed. Having arrived at this stage of purification a person achieves the understanding for which he has been created. This stage is truly the key to salvation and to solving the problems of ephemeral existence. It proves how close the True Creator is to His weak creation. We have learnt of this stage by the light which is the Qur’an. That light gives us the good news that the fountain of revelation never runs dry. Any dweller of the East or the West, when he searches for God Almighty and makes his peace with Him and removes the intervening veils in between, will surely find Him; and when he finds Him truly and perfectly, then God will speak to him.

The Vedas have denied man this stage and have confined it to the four Rishis, who, according to the Arya Samajists, are the authors of the Vedas. This is an error of the Vedas like the other great errors contained therein. It is obvious that all human beings are alike in their nature and what is possible for one man is possible for all, and the closeness to the Divine and His understanding, which is permissible in the case of one human being, is permissible in the case of all, for they all have the same nature. It is true that there is diversity in respect of the degrees of excellence, but no one is shut out from the kind of excellence which is open to others. Should there be a person who should not have the slightest capacity to acquire human excellence then that person cannot be included within the category of human beings. In short, there can be a difference in capacities, but there cannot be a total absence of capacity. 

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 2, pp. 239-240

The Gracious and Merciful Lord, Who has invested human nature with the hunger and thirst of His own complete understanding has endowed human nature with two types of faculties for the purpose of arriving at that understanding. One type is the intellectual faculties, the source of which is the brain, and the other type is spiritual faculties the source of which is the heart. The purity of spiritual faculties depends upon the purity of the heart. That which cannot be discovered through the intellectual faculties is reached through the spiritual faculties. Spiritual faculties can develop such purity that the graces of the Source of Grace can be mirrored in them, but the condition is that they should be eager for the acquisition of grace and all intervening veils and obstructions should be removed so that they might become the recipients of the grace of perfect understanding. Their recognition of the Divine should not be limited to the affirmation that there should be a Creator of this universe. Rather, by being perfectly graced with the honour of divine converse, they should be able to behold His countenance directly through having observed His great signs and should thus be able to see with complete certainty that that Creator truly exists. But as the nature of most people is not free from obstruction, they are afflicted with the love and greed of the world, pride, arrogance, self-esteem, hypocrisy, self-worship, and other moral delinquencies, and are deliberately neglectful of the obligations due to Allah and to His creatures, and purposely turn away from sincerity and fidelity and love of God and devotion to Him, and cut asunder deliberately from God Almighty. On account of all types of obstructions, veils, desires and passions, they are not qualified that the grace of converse with the Divine should descend upon them which should exhibit the lights of their being acceptable to God. 

Yet the eternal bounty of God, which does not wish that human nature should go to waste, makes it possible for most human beings to occasionally see true dreams or to receive true revelation so that they should realize that the way for their stepping forward is open. But their dreams and revelations do not indicate their being acceptable to God and are not accompanied by signs of the love and grace of God, nor are such people purified of the impurities of their egos. They see these dreams so that they might be furnished with an argument for believing in God’s prophets, for if they were to be deprived altogether of the understanding of true dreams and true revelations, and they should have no certain knowledge of them, they could plead before God Almighty that they were unable to understand the reality of prophethood for they had no knowledge of it. They had no sample of it before their eyes. Therefore, from the beginning it has been the way of God that irrespective of a person being good or bad or righteous or disobedient, or being the follower of a true faith or of a false one, he is shown true dreams or is vouchsafed true revelation so that his conjecture which derives from hearing of such matters may be converted into certainty and he may have a sample in his hands which should help his spiritual progress. The Wise Creator has so fashioned the human brain and has so invested it with the spiritual faculties that it can see some true dreams and can receive some true revelations. But these dreams and revelations are not an indication of any spiritual rank or greatness, but are only a sample of the way through which progress could be made.

—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in vol. 22, pp. 8-10


[1] Curse of Allah be upon the liars.