Religious Concepts

Revelation, Inspiration, Vision and Dream

© Shutterstock


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) discusses the difference between revelation, one’s thoughts and psychic phenomena.

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam – Vol. II. pp. 66-76

How Revelation is Received

The slight slumber that overtakes one at the time when the word of God descends upon the heart is completely outside material causes and all physical causes are suspended at the time. When a righteous person, who has true relationship of love and fidelity with God Almighty, submits a supplication to God in the upsurge of that relationship, he is suddenly overtaken by a slight slumber while he is still occupied with his supplication and he seems to wake up and finds the answer to his supplication, couched in eloquent words, being conveyed to him behind the veil of that slumber. Those words possess a majesty and a quality of delight, and divine power is felt shining through them. They penetrate the heart like an iron nail and often contain knowledge of the hidden matters. It often happens that when that righteous person seeks to submit something more with regard to his first supplication, or submits a fresh supplication, he is again overtaken by a slumber which disappears within less than a second and from it emerge holy words, as the kernel emerges from the shell, which are delicious and full of majesty. In this manner God, Who is Gracious and Merciful and full of kindness, responds to every question and does not manifest any contempt or disgust. If a supplication is made sixty or seventy or a hundred times a response is received in the same manner. That is to say, that at the time of each supplication a slight slumber overtakes the recipient of revelation. On occasion, this faintness or slumber is heavy as if the person had fallen into a swoon. Such revelation is vouchsafed on very important matters and is the highest type of revelation.

The slumber that overtakes a recipient of revelation at the time of his supplication and prayer behind the veil of which divine revelation is received, is above any physical causes. Whatever the physicists regard as the law of nature concerning dreams breaks down in this instance. There are hundreds of spiritual matters which refute the thinking of philosophers. Very often a person sees in a vision objects that are thousands of miles away and appear as if they were close to the eye, and often a person can meet and converse in complete wakefulness with the souls of those who have passed away. 

—Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 23, pp. 111-112

Various Forms of Revelation

First Form: Out of several forms of revelation which God has disclosed to me, one is that when God Almighty desires to disclose some hidden matter to His servant He causes to flow from his tongue some phrases in a slight slumber, sometimes gently and sometimes harshly. Those phrases that flow harshly from the tongue fall upon the tongue as harshly as hail falls suddenly upon a hard piece of ground, or as the hooves of a fast running steed strike the earth. Such a revelation arrives with speed and is so awe-inspiring that the whole body is affected thereby and the tongue runs with it so fast and in such a majestic voice as if it is not one’s own tongue. The slight slumber disappears altogether when the revelation is completed and during the time that it is received one lies motionless like a corpse. Such revelation is received when God Almighty out of His wisdom decides not to accept a supplication or decides to postpone its acceptance or wishes to convey something which would lie heavy on the recipient. For instance, when a person seeks to acquire something quickly and such acquisition is not in accord with the divine will or has to be postponed. I have been the recipient of such revelations on occasion, which it would take too long to describe in detail, but I will set down one instance.

About three years ago, I prayed that people might be disposed to help in the publication of this book whereupon I received this type of revelation in hard words:

‘Not yet.’

When I received this revelation I informed a number of Hindus and Muslims of it, who are still alive and they also witnessed thereafter the lack of attention of people to this book.

As regards the other type of revelation, in which phrases flow from the tongue with gentleness, it would be enough to state that when some time had passed after the revelation just mentioned, and I was beset with difficulties, then one day I received a revelation from the Gracious Lord:

وَهُزِّيٓ إِلَيۡكِ بِجِذۡعِ ٱلنَّخۡلَةِ تُسَٰقِطۡ عَلَيۡكِ رُطَبٗا جَنِيّٗا [1]

From this I understood that this was an indication that I should invite people’s help and that there was a promise that through such effort I would be able to collect enough money to defray the expenses of the publication of that part of the book. I informed several Hindus and Muslims of this revelation also and I also informed Hafiz Hidayat ‘Ali Khan, Extra Assistant Commissioner, who had arrived in Qadian the same day or the following day. I also informed Maulavi Muhammad Husain of Batala. In short, after the receipt of this revelation, according to the divine command, I made some effort towards inviting assistance, and thereafter, I received from Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Malirkotla and a few other places enough assistance to meet the expenses of the publication of that part. All praise is due to Allah for this.

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 248-251 sub-footnote 1

The second form of revelation, which on account of its many wonders I call perfect revelation, is that when God Almighty desires to inform a servant of a hidden matter after his supplication or on His own, He imposes a faintness upon him, whereby he becomes completely free from his self and sinks in that faintness like a person who dives in deep water and disappears in it; then when he emerges from this diving he feels a sort of echo inside himself, and when that echo ceases he feels from inside himself words that are appropriate and fine and delicious. This diving in the faintness is a wonderful experience, which cannot be adequately described in words. In this condition, a whole ocean of understanding is opened for a person. When repeatedly he has this experience of diving that is imposed upon him by God Almighty and he receives a response to every supplication in fine and delicious words, and in each instance God discloses to him verities which it is beyond human power to disclose, he thereby achieves the fullness of understanding and cognition. Man’s supplication and God’s response to it through the manifestation of His Godhead is an experience as if the supplicant beholds God in this very world, and immediately, both worlds appear equal to him. When at the time of need a servant makes repeated supplication to his Lord and receives a response, as one human being receives from another, and that response is couched in fine eloquent words, sometimes in a language of which he is completely ignorant, and comprises hidden matters which are beyond the power of creatures, and sometimes conveys the good news of great bounties or of high ranks or of nearness to God, and sometimes comprehends prophecies with regard to worldly blessings, then by the hearing of these fine and eloquent phrases which are far above human power, he acquires a degree of understanding which is appreciated only by him upon whom this bounty is bestowed. In truth, such a one recognises God as one recognises a firm and old friend. Such revelation often relates to grand affairs. It sometimes contains words the meanings of which have to be sought for in a dictionary. Sometimes I have received such a revelation in an alien language like English or some other with which I am totally unacquainted. 

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 260-264 sub-footnote 1

The third form of revelation is communicated to one’s heart in a gentle manner. A phrase passes through the heart which does not comprehend all the wonders in perfection that are a characteristic of the revelation that we have just described. It is not necessarily preceded by any faintness or slumber. It can be received in complete wakefulness. It is felt as if someone has breathed those words into the heart or has thrown them at the heart. One might be partially awake or might be completely awake and one suddenly feels that new words have entered one’s breast. Sometimes, immediately on entering the heart, the words manifest their forceful light and one becomes aware that these words are being conveyed by God. The revelation conveys comfort, satisfaction and contentment to the heart as the air that one breathes conveys comfort to the heart and limbs. A disturbed mind feels its joy and coolness. This is a mystery of which the common people are unaware but men of understanding who have been bestowed experience of divine mysteries by the Bountiful Lord understand it well. I have experienced such revelation on many occasions.

The fourth form of revelation is that some matter is disclosed by God Almighty in a true dream, or an angel assuming human shape discloses a hidden matter, or a writing appears on a piece of paper or on a stone, etc., which discloses hidden mysteries, or other similar experiences. 

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 273-274 sub-footnote I

The fifth form of revelation is that which has nothing to do with man’s heart. One hears a voice from outside as if someone were speaking from behind a curtain, but the voice is very delicious and cheerful and is conveyed with some speed and the heart derives pleasure from it. One’s mind is deep in thought, and suddenly, this voice is heard, and one is surprised where it has proceeded from and who is addressing one. One looks for someone from whom the voice could have proceeded and then one realises that it has come from an angel. It generally conveys some good news when one is anxious and sorrowful or is gripped by fear on hearing some bad news which turns out to have been false. Unlike the second form, such revelation is not the consequence of repeated supplications. An angel speaks suddenly when God Almighty so desires, contrary to the second type of revelation when a response is received from God Almighty to repeated supplications; a hundred supplications receive a hundred replies from the Absolute Benefactor, as has been my own experience. 

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 287-288 sub-footnote I

I have several times seen Jesus (as) in a vision and have also met some of the prophets in complete wakefulness. I have also seen and conversed many times with our lord and master Muhammad, the Chosen One (peace and blessings of Allah be on him), in complete wakefulness, which was entirely free from slumber or absent-mindedness. I have also met other deceased people at their graves or on other occasions and have talked to them in complete wakefulness. I therefore know well that such a meeting with deceased people in complete wakefulness, and talking to them and shaking hands with them, is quite possible. There is no difference whatsoever between this wakefulness and normal wakefulness. One feels that one is in this world with the same ears and eyes and tongue and yet one feels as if one were in another world. People of the world are not aware of such wakefulness for they are heedless and this wakefulness is bestowed from heaven. It is bestowed upon those who are granted new senses. This is true and is a fact. 

—Masih Hindustan Mein, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 15, pp. 36-37

The Ability to Receive Revelation

Capacity and ability are needed for the receipt of revelation. Not everyone can become God’s prophet and be the recipient of divine revelation. Allah the Exalted has given an indication of this in the Holy Qur’an, as follows:

وَإِذَا جَآءَتۡهُمۡ ءَايَةٞ قَالُواْ لَن نُّؤۡمِنَ حَتَّىٰ نُؤۡتَىٰ مِثۡلَ مَآ أُوتِيَ رُسُلُ ٱللَّهِۘ ٱللَّهُ أَعۡلَمُ حَيۡثُ يَجۡعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ [2]

This means that when a sign is shown in order to demonstrate the truth of the Holy Qur’an, they say: We will never believe until we ourselves receive the divine book. God knows best where and when to confer prophethood, that is, He knows who is able and who is not able to receive revelation. He bestows the grace of revelation only upon him who possesses the requisite ability and capacity. 

The Wise Creator has created men of different types for various reasons, and the whole body of mankind resembles a line, one end of which is situated at a great height, and the other end is very low. At the high end are the pure souls whose capacities are perfect, and at the low end are those who are close to animals, and in the middle are those of various degrees. This diversity of capacities is confirmed by observation for no reasonable person can deny that human beings are at different stages of understanding, of righteousness, of fear of God and of divine love. As one is born handsome and another is born plain, one is born with good sight and another is born blind or with weak sight, one is born normal and another is born defective, in the same way the diversity of intellectual and spiritual faculties is also patent and visible. It is true that every individual, provided he is not insane, can make progress in his reason, his righteousness and his love of the Divine, but it should be borne in mind that no one can grow beyond the limit of his capacity. 

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 181-182 footnote 11

Man Possesses a Diversity of Intelligence

Human nature is like minerals of diverse types; some are bright and clear like silver, some are evil-smelling and inflammable like sulphur, some are restless like mercury and some are hard like iron. This diversity is obvious and is in accord with the divine dispensation. It is not opposed to the law of nature and contributes towards social peace and adjustment. It is obvious that if all natures had been at the same level of capacity, different types of work which call for different grades of capacities and which are essential for the adjustment of social conditions would have been left incomplete and in suspense. For hard work, hard natures are appropriate, and for delicate work, those natures are suited which are delicate. The Greek philosophers have expressed the view that, as some men are close to animals, reason demands that the nature of some should be fine and clear so that as we observe that some natures descend so low as to approximate to animals, equally some should be capable of rising so high that they should establish a relationship with the higher world.

Now that it is established that individual human beings possess a diversity of intelligence, moral qualities and the light of the heart, that is proof that divine revelation is confined to certain individuals who are perfect in every respect. Every reasonable person comprehends that each soul receives divine light according to its capacity and its ability and no more. The sun is a good illustration of this principle. Its rays are shed in every direction but not all places receive its light equally. A room the doors of which are closed receives no light, and that which has a small ventilator in the direction of the sun receives some light, but not enough to dispel the darkness completely. But a room of which all doors are open and whose walls are built of clear and transparent glass will not only receive the full light of the sun but will also spread it in all directions and convey it to others. The same is the case with the pure souls of the prophets. The holy souls that God Almighty chooses for His messengership are like a crystal palace which has no opaqueness and no screen to obstruct the light. It is, therefore, clear that those individuals who do not possess perfection cannot achieve the rank of divine messengers. This rank is bestowed upon those whose holy souls are entirely free of darkening veils and of physical coverings and whose transcendent holiness is beyond imagination. Such perfect souls are the means of guidance for mankind. As the bounty of life is conveyed to all the limbs by the heart, the All-Wise has appointed the bounty of guidance through such souls for they are bestowed the perfect relationship that ought to subsist between the Source of grace and the recipient of grace. It is not possible that God Almighty, Who is absolutely Unique and Transcendent, should bestow the grace of His holy revelation upon people the greater part of whose nature is dark and opaque, and is narrow and constricted, and whose mean natures are involved in low impurities. If we do not deceive ourselves we would have to confess that to establish a perfect relationship with the Eternal Source and to enjoy converse with His Great Holiness, a special ability and brightness is needed which is appropriate to this great rank and dignity. Not every person can attain to it who is in a state of loss and lacks merit and is covered up in dark coverings and possesses a low nature and lacks high courage. 

No one should be deceived by the fact that according to the Christians, holiness and transcendence and innocence and perfect love for the Divine are not essential for the prophets who are the recipients of divine revelation. They have lost the true principles and have sacrificed all verities to the notion that somehow Jesus (as) might be deified and the atonement might be accepted. As the innocence and holiness of the prophets demolish this structure of theirs, they have been compelled to have recourse to one falsehood in order to support another falsehood. Having lost one eye they have had to gouge out the other. They loved falsehood and abandoned the truth. They insulted the prophets and represented the pure ones as impure and they proclaimed as opaque and impure the hearts on which divine revelation descended so that the greatness of their fictitious god should not be diminished and the doctrine of atonement should not be doubted. In this selfish attitude, they forgot that their doctrine not only defames the prophets but also puts in doubt the holiness of God, for how can He be Holy Who established a relationship and held converse with the impure? 

—Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 1, pp. 188-190 footnote 11

[1] ‘Take hold of the branch of the palm-tree and shake it; it will shed fresh ripe dates upon thee.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 19:26.

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 6:125.