Dreams, Visions and Revelation

Islam and Revelation

Islam and Revelation (8ashir Ahmad Orchard) The Islamic conception of revelation is a subject of great importance because without revelation there would be no Islam. It is through revelation that one is assured of the existence of God and it is through revelation that God makes His will known to mankind. It is necessary, therefore, that the reality of revelation be established. Definition of Revelation Throughout the ages many righteous Muslims have been the recipients of Divine revelation. They have enjoyed verbal communication with God. It is this kind of revelation that gives perfect certainty of faith and proves that there is a God who does exist. Revelation has often been misunderstood even by religious minded people. According to them any idea that flashes into the mind is a revelation from God. This is their conception of “God speaking”. This is the view of Dr. Buchman the founder of the Oxford Group Movement which has now taken the name of Moral Re-Armament. Similarly it is the view of many others. Any inspirational promptings that come into the mind are said to be the voice of God. The truth is that everybody experiences inspired thoughts and ideas whether he or she is a believer or not. If such experiences are to be regarded as Divinely inspired then what test is there for judging which thoughts are revealed and which thoughts are not revealed or whose thoughts are Divinely inspired and whose thoughts are not Divinely inspired? This theory of revelation is repudiated by Islam. According to Islam the recipient of Divine revelation actually hears the spoken word of God fall on his eardrum as clearly as he would hear the voice of his companion. There is no mistake about it at all. Sometimes the recipient sees the words before him in writing instead of hearing them or sometimes he finds his own tongue reciting them. It can be well understood what an impression such an experience will have on the mind of the recipient. He knows with certainty that his experience is not mere imagination but the result of direct experience of a higher source. 34 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS This is the highest form of revelation defined by Islam. Another way in which God reveals Himself is through symbolic language shown in dreams. Milk, for instance, indicates knowledge and likewise other things have their interpretations. There is yet another way in which God manifests Himself which is through visions. In such a state, while fully awake, one is able to see and hold conversation with the dead and sometimes one is shown things occurring at some distant place. This is an intriguing subject on its own. Necessity of Revelation It is only through revelation that one can attain certainty of faith. Reason is certainly a great blessing which is very essential in one’s search to find out the reality of things. It is said by some people that reason has no connection with religious beliefs. This is not true for even the most dogmatic believer will bring to light one reason or another for his adherence to his particular beliefs. Reason is a blessing not to be despised for it plays an important role in the destiny of mankind. However, it is true that reason alone cannot lead one to a degree of perfect certainty. Reason alone cannot prove the existence of a thing though it can lead one to the conclusion that a thing most probably does exist or ought to exist. How many people believe in the existence of God because they have come to the conclusion that indications suggest there ought to be; but when asked to present conclusive arguments are quite unable to do so? There are millions of such people. This is because they have not reached that stage of certainty. Reason always has a companion which enables a presumption to be proved a fact. For instance, if one sees smoke rising up in the distance reason leads one to suppose that there is a fire. However, certainty on the matter cannot be assured until one approaches and visibly sees the flames. Here the companion reason which brings about certainty is “observation”. Similarly reason alone cannot prove spiritual truths but when associated with its correct companion then certainty in such matters can be attained. Islam is not merely a theoretical religion but is a religion which has been established by God Himself. Its fundamental basis, therefore, is revelation. Hundreds of Muslims – particularly Ahmadies – experience Divine revelation in the manner related. What clearer sign could there be for the seeker after truth? Islam leads one to certainty of knowledge that God exists and that one is treading on the right path. The Theory of Hallucination We now come to an important aspect of the subject that cannot be overlooked. Opponents of Islam have time and time again charged the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) with being possessed of an unsound ISLAM AND REVELATION 35 mind and being subject to epileptic fits. His revelations, they say, were nothing but hallucinations. The people who make these charges do so to suit their own philosophy and make no intelligent investigation of the subject. Islamic history does not provide a single indication to suggest such a view. Their sweeping assertions are, therefore, not in accordance with historical evidence. A person suffering from epileptic fits and mental delusions could not deceive a whole nation. The early Muslims underwent all manner of hardships and persecutions for the sake of their beloved Prophet. They were infused with love and loyalty which could not have been brought about by one subject to fits and delusions. He inspired the hearts of his followers with a genuine love because he himself was genuine in all he spoke and did. The ministry of the Holy Prophet continued for twenty-three years and within this period Arabia accepted the truth of his Divine mission. He was an embodiment of truth and righteousness and his purity of heart was acknowledged by all alike from his early childhood. It was not until he reached the age of forty that he proclaimed his Divine mission. Then, for twenty-three years he was the continual recipient of revelation from God. It was his truthfulness and unblemished character that won the hearts of his followers. He was acknowledged the wisest of counsellors and was the ruler of his people and today the wisdom of Islamic law is recognised by nearly one fifth of the world’s population. Even George Bernard Shaw, one of the most renowned rationalists of his time, has written about Muhammad (peace be upon him): “I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it, the much needed peace and happiness.” It is indeed a mere fallacy to suggest that one possessing such a noble character and such profound wisdom was the victim of mental derangement. Even Gilman, a biased historian, has admitted concerning the contents of the Quran: “These are not the ravings of an unbalanced mind, but the powerful cries of one in earnest for the good of others. ” (The Saracens by Arthur Gilman, M.A.). It is true that there are people suffering from mental derangement who are deceived in imagining they hear voices and see visions; but they are medical cases and the likelihood of anyone being deceived by such people is most improbable. Falsehood not identified with Truthfulness Another objection raised against the validity of the revelations proclaimed by Muhammad (peace be on him) is that he was just a rank imposter. It is said that he pretended to receive revelation and deceived the people into believing 36 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS so. Such an objection only springs from those not truly conversant with the life of the Prophet and also with the Ouran. This objection can be replied to from many lines of approach but at this stage one will suffice. It has already been mentioned that the character of the Holy Prophet was exemplary in every way. When a child he was always quiet and obedient and was given to reflection and meditation as he grew up. He always did whatever he could to help the oppressed and at the age of twenty joined a society which rendered help to those subjected to unjust treatment. The love of justice, righteousness and truth dominated his heart and people were so impressed by his nobility of character that he was named “the truthful one” and “the trusted one” . At the age of forty he received his first revelation from God to the effect that he had been appointed a prophet with a message for all mankind. At first he was wonder-struck and doubted the validity of his revelation. It was not until he repeatedly heard the call that no doubt whatsoever was left in his mind. The majesty of the heavenly words impressed themselves on the very core of his heart. The moment came when he called a large gathering of people to make a public proclamation. Addressing them he said: “Ye people of Mecca, if I were to tell you that a great army is advancing on Mecca and has arrived near at hand with the intention of making an attack, would you believe me?” Such an event was most unlikely because not only was Mecca regarded as a sacred city to the Arabs, but also had such an army been approaching then certainly the news would have been quickly conveyed by the shepherds and agriculturalists attending to their duties round about the city. Despite this, the answer received to his question was: “We would believe you for you have never been guilty of falsehood. ” The Holy Prophet then said: “You testify that I never speak that which is not true. I inform you, therefore, that God has appointed me to deliver His message to you, and to point out to you the error of your ways.” – This is an instance of the implicit trust with which he was regarded and it is no wonder that he was given the name of “The Trusted One”. Another such instance is shown by the behaviour of his friend, Abu Bakr, who came to him and enquired whether it was true that he had put forth a claim to have been appointed a prophet by God. The Holy Prophet replied that it was true. Immediately Abu Bakr exclaimed: “I swear by my father and my mother that you have never uttered a falsehood, and I cannot conceive that you would say that concerning God which is not true. I bear witness, therefore, that there is no God besides Allah, and that you are the Messenger of God.” ISLAM AND REVELATION 37 What a perfect exemplar of truthfulness and what trust he won in the hearts of the people! Critics endeavour to lead one to suppose that for the last twenty-three years of his life he masqueraded as a sheep in wolves’ clothing and deliberately lied and deceived the public. Such a possibility is absolutely incompatible with the life of one who had for forty years never told a falsehood and who had lived an exemplary life of righteousness and purity. It is absurd to suggest that suddenly overnight such a pious and noble character would embark upon a course of falsehood, fraud and deceit. The charge is quite baseless and reveals the ignorance or bias of those who make it. There is nothing, therefore, to warrant the supposition that the Prophet suffered from mental derangement or that he was an imposter. The arguments just discussed are just a couple among many which refute such objections; and others bearing witness to the truth of his revelations will be discussed further on. The Criterion of the Bible It is strange that while the Bible testifies to the truth of the Holy Prophet, Christians pay no heed to his call. They, along with the secularists, reject his claims and levy against him the already mentioned allegations. The criterion in the Bible for distinguishing a true prophet from a false prophet is of special concern for the Christian because it bears witness to the truth of Muhammad (peace be on him) and the revelations he received. The Bible states in more places than one that a false prophet will not succeed in his mission and will be subject to the wrath of God who will see that he is destroyed. The Bible states: “If there arise among you a false prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder comes to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying: Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God.” (Deut. 13:1-5). “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak or that shall speak in the name of other gods, THAT SAME PROPHET SHALL DIE.” (Deut. 18:20). 38 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS These passages foretell the fate that will overtake a false prophet and the Bible shows that this was actually the fate of imposters. “Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hanamiah the (false) prophet. Hear now, Hanamiah: The Lord hath not sent thee: but thou makest the people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold I will send thee away from off the earth; this year thou shalt die, because thou hast spoken rebellion against the Lord. So Hanamiah the (false) prophet died in the same year in the seventh month.” (Jer. 27:15, 17). Again: “For before these days rose up Theudas, a false prophet boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men about four hundred joined themselves; who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed, and brought to nought. After this rose up Joseph of Galilee in the days of enrolment, and drew away some of the people after him. He also perished and, all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered.” (Acts 5). According to the testimony of the Bible had Muhammad (peace be on him) been a false prophet he would have met the fate due to false prophets and his work would have been brought to nought. This, however, was not the case. He succeeded in his mission and he died a natural death and not until the whole of pagan Arabia had accepted Islam. Today nearly one fifth of the world’s population bears witness to his truth. Success surrounded his mission on all sides. All this proves, according to the Bible, that he was a true prophet and Christians, in denying this truth, are in fact denying the testimony of their own scriptures. Revelation the Experience of Many Revelation has been and still is today the experience of many people. It is because the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be on him) was the founder of the religion of Islam that his life has been given particular attention in the preceding pages. The truth of Islam entirely depends upon the truth of his claims to revelation. This is why the way has been made clear in the beginning by dealing with the most common objections. If the Holy Prophet had been the only claimant to revelation then one could be justified to some extent in doubting his truth. But this is not so. Throughout the past thirteen centuries there have been many Muslims who have had personal experience of revelation and who do also today. In this age ISLAM AND REVELATION 39 God has demonstrated His attribute of speech by pouring down revelation upon Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – The Promised Messiah – and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community. His son – Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud- Din Mahmud Ahmad was also very frequently the recipient of revelation and in his book “Ahmadiyyiat or the True Islam” he states: “By the Grace of God the writer (himself) of this paper has had personal experience of revelation and can confidently assert on the basis of his own experience that revelation is conveyed in words and is not a mere idea of the mind.” A false prophet cannot lead men into the presence of God. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. The very fact that Muslims enjoy Divine communion with God is a sure sign of the truth of the Holy Prophet because a satanic tree will not bear Divine fruit. The Proof of Divine Revelation At this point an objection may be raised that however reasonable may appear what has been said it is after all only hearsay. If the reader is not personally conversant with Islamic history or has no faith in history then this objection may at once come to his mind. As already shown the beauty of Islam is that it is a living religion. Divine revelation did not cease with the Prophet but, as just mentioned, continues to be a distinguishing feature of Islam. History, therefore, is in no way a necessary medium for establishing the reality of revelation. The Bible records how in the Biblical days God used to speak with His chosen servants but today one no longer witnesses this attribute manifested among Christians in the same manner that it once blessed the Jews and early followers of Christ. Christianity depends on tales of the past to illustrate the subject of revelation. An Anglican Bishop openly admitted to me that he did not even believe in verbal revelation. Today, Divine revelation is a distinguishing feature of Islam alone; and this very age bears testimony to the proof of verbal revelation without having to rely on tales of the past. It is not suggested that God never manifests Himself among the Christians but there is a vast difference between the degree of revelation manifested in Christianity and Islam. This point will be discussed further on. An Illustration of Divine Revelation concerning 1914-18 War Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, claimed in the year 1889 that God had revealed to him that in his person was fulfilled the advent of the 40 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Promised Messiah concerning whom prophecies are contained in Islamic, Christian and other religious scriptures. In his own words he said: “The task for which God has appointed me is that I should by removing the obstacles which have been set between man and his Maker, re-establish in the hearts of men love and devotion to God, and by making manifest the truth, should put an end to all religious wars and strife and thus lay the foundations of abiding peace, and should acquaint the world with the spiritual truths which it had forgotten, and should demonstrate to the world the true spiritual life which had been displaced by material desires, and should in my own life manifest those Divine powers which have been endowed upon man but which can be manifested only through prayer and devotion; and above all that I should permanently re-establish that bright and pure unity of God free from all polytheistic ideas which had entirely disappeared from the hearts of men.” Such was the Divine task which he claimed God had appointed him to fulfil. He claimed time and time again that God favoured him with verbal revelation and as the claims of the Holy Prophet depended on the veracity of his revelations similarly the claims of the Promised Messiah also depended on the truth of his revelations. The Promised Messiah demonstrated in his own person the reality of Divine revelation and literally hundreds of such illustrations could be cited. In the year 1905 he proclaimed and published a mighty prophecy made known to him through revelations from God: “God has warned me of a mighty earthquake: it shall make the young old, cities shall be ruined, rivers of blood shall flow, mountains shall be moved. Men shall go mad of shock, the whole world shall be involved and the Czar shall be reduced to a miserable and pitiable plight.” When publishing this prophecy, the Promised Messiah stated that it indicated that some terrible visitation would occur. In the Quran the word “earthquake” is in many places used as meaning war. He also prophesied that fleets of the sea would encounter one another and the earth would be turned upside down. All this would occur within sixteen years. How literally did the 1914-18 war fulfil this revelation! Indeed it has been named the world war. The devastation brought about was unprecedented and what was the ill fortune of the Czar of Russia? He lost his throne and later murdered after seeing his wife and daughters humiliated and disgraced in his presence. In accordance with the prophecy all this happened within the stipulated period of sixteen years from the date of the publication of his revelations. ISLAM AND REVELATION 41 Distinction between Divine and InteUectual Prophecies Though this is a clear and wonderful illustration of the reality of Divine revelation it may not convince the sceptic who raises the objection that similar kinds of prophecies have been made by personalities such as Mr. H. G. Wells. There is a distinguishing feature between those who prophecy on the basis of revelation and those who do so as a result of their own theories. In the first place Mr. H. G. Wells has nothing to lose if his prophecies are not fulfilled but he who prophecies in obedience to revelation knows that the world is waiting and watching for their fulfilment upon which rests his integrity and truthfulness. Furthermore, Divine prophecies are consistent in their fulfilment but this is not the case of the prophecies made by those who proclaim future events which are merely the outcome of their personal conclusions. Sometimes, no doubt, their theories prove to be true but as often as not they do not. This is not the case with revealed prophecies because all of them are fulfilled. Again, events that are generally made known through Divine revelation are quite beyond the ingenuity of the human mind to conceive and they relate to things beyond human deduction. Divine Revelation concerning the Procreation of Children It is not within the knowledge of any person to say whether children will be or will not be born to certain individuals. Some women, despite their desire for children, pass the whole of their lives childless. Usually, however, married women bear children which shows the wonder of the following revelation received and published by the Promised Messiah. There was a man living in India by the name of Maulvi Saadullah who was an enemy of the Promised Messiah. In his talk and writings he used to abuse the Promised Messiah and he stated that when the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community died his community would come to an end because he would have no offspring to continue it. The Promised Messiah then received a revelation to the effect that Maulvi Sa~dullah’s line of descent would become extinct and that consequently he nor his then existing son would have any children. The words of the prophecy are these: “Thine enemy who says concerning thee that thou shalt die childless, shall himself be cut off and his line will become extinct.” Though Maulvi Saadullah was still comparatively young and there was no reason why he should not have any more children, he lived for another fifteen years without further issue. In due course his son also died without begetting any children even though he married twice. This was a remarkable prophecy which was fulfilled to the very letter. No imposter would dare venture to publish such a prophecy to establish his claims. The odds would be all against him. The Promised Messiah, knowing 42 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS that the revelation he published was from God, boldly proclaimed it to illustrate the truth of his claims and that there is a God who exists and speaks to whomsoever He chooses. The Promised Messiah received numerous revelations in which he was foretold matters of the future and each was as wonderful as the other. Their consistent fulfilment establishes without doubt that they were of Divine origin. There is no other course of explanation left open and the more one studies. them the more firmly is one convinced of their truth. The Promised Messiah received other revelations concerning a son who would be born to him within a period of nine years. He published these revelations in the year 1886 and the revelations quoted below are some of those describing his promised son: “Thus I give unto thee tidings that a handsome, pure and righteous son shall be given thee who will be thine own offspring. He will possess high intelligence and a keen intellect and will be clement of heart. He will progress rapidly, and will be known unto the ends of the earth, and nations will find deliverence and be blessed through him.” After some time a son was born but shortly afterwards he died. Some people endeavoured to explain that the death of his son falsified his prophecy. The Promised Messiah reminded them, however, that he would be born within the period of nine years and so it was wrong to suppose that the son who had died was that particular son. Again he confirmed the revelations he had received. Accordingly, on the January 12th 1889, he was vouchsafed another son whose birth had been foretold. This son was the late Head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam, Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad who was renowned for his piety, learning and wisdom. It was through him that missions have been established throughout the world and his name was more and more known daily. Sovereigns and rulers have been presented with his books. In paying tribute to his unique personality Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan writes in his booklet “The Head of the Ahmadiyya Community”: “He is a prolific writer and indefatigable speaker. His writings and speeches range over a very wide field and comprise almost every aspect of human activity . . . Those who have been privileged to listen to his public speeches will bear testimony to the power he is able to wield over his audiences through the sheer force of his reasoning, the aptness of the illustrations employed by him, his appeal to the nobler sentiments of his audience and the ideals that he persistently holds up before them. He is the unsurpassed master of exposition and interpretation and often holds huge audiences spellbound for hours at a stretch while he proceeds to expound at leisure and in detail the thesis he has chosen for the occasion.” ISLAM AND REVELATION 43 Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad was a living sign of the truth of Divine Revelation and of the Promised Messiah to whom his birth was revealed. How wonderfully he fulfilled the prophecies concerning himself. As it has already been stated it is beyond the knowledge and power of a person to say that he will be blessed with a son and furthermore to give details concerning him. The Value of Prophecy in Revelation Revelation is a blessing of God which uplifts the soul of the person who receives it. He tastes the joy of direct communion with God which quickens his faith and love for his Creator. It is spiritual water which comforts his soul and establishes certainty of faith in his heart. The revelations of the Promised Messiah that have been mentioned contain prophecies but all revelation need not do so. Personal revelations revealing words of comfort and encouragement are experienced by many. The reason why God very often reveals prophecies to His chosen ones is that people other than the actual recipient may also be able to witness the Word of God. He who actually experiences these revelations is filled with a positive knowledge of the truth and the fulfilment of the prophecies also guide the hearts of those who witness them being fulfilled. Revelation of the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community Islam teaches and shows that revelation is a reality and not only an experience enjoyed by people in past ages, but one that has been enjoyed throughout all ages and is even in this very time. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad frequently had Divine revelation many of which were given world-wide publicity. Maulvi J. D. Shams, a former Imam of the London Mosque, published several leaflets and booklets in which he informed the British public of some of the former’s prophetic revelations. In his own words he writes concerning one amazing revelation: “By way of illustration I will mention briefly some of the visions and revelations in which he was shown all the turning points of the second world war, and which he disclosed to the public before they actually happened and were published in the Sunrise (Lahore) and The Daily Alfazl (Qadian). In August 1939, before the war broke out, he was shown in a vision, the confidential correspondence of the British Government. In one of those letters the British Government urged the French Government to effect a union with her, as Great Britain was in great danger, that Germany was contemplating invasion and was near to SUbjugating her. When he read it he became very anxious, and being on the point of waking, he, all of a sudden heard a voice saying: ‘This was a matter of six months ago’. 44 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS “When the time of the fulfilment of this vision drew near, God showed him, three days before it happened, King Leopold’s unconditional surrender and abdication by default, in a figure of an abdicating king. His capitulation was a major cause of the Dunkirk disaster. Britain then became so weak that she urged the French Government for a union. Thus was fulfilled literally in June 1940 what he was shown in the vision in August 1939. “He then interpreted what the voice had said that six months after the date of the proposed union, the circumstances would be more favourable to Britain and that the misfortune would abate. “Exactly six months after the declaration of union, when the first advance of the British Armies into Libya began, the Prime Minister, on December 19th 1940, in the House of Commons, revealed that, compared with the position of May and June, they had grown stronger and were well prepared. He said: ‘It is only six months since we were fighting what seemed to many of our best friends a desperate fight for bare survival.’ ” In another vision, published in June 1940 the Head of the Ahmadiyya Community was informed by God that 2,800 aeroplanes would be dispatched to Great Britain by the Government ofthe U .S.A. This prophecy was brought to the notice of eminent government officials who witnessed its literal fulfilment a few weeks later. He is therefore, a living sign of the existence of God and the truth of Islam. Revelation and other Faiths Islam does not teach that revelation is a peculiar feature of Islam alone and that people of other faiths never experience it. Islam acknowledges that God, being All-Powerful, can speak to whomsoever He chooses and that He does. If God altogether refrained from revealing Himself to His creation then faith would gradually become dead. Islam teaches that God does sometimes send down revelation upon those who may not be treading the true path for revelation revives the spiritual side of man and gives light to hope. God, in all His wisdom may even have reason to reveal Himselfto one who is the worst of criminals or a prostitute. Islam, however, more than any other religion, lays much stress and importance on the truth and reality of revelation. Christianity, for instance, does not appreciate the significance of revelation as explained and demonstrated by Islam. The leaders of the churches are sceptical on this subject and many of them have gone as far as to deny verbal revelation altogether and give some theological interpretation to those chapters of their scriptures which record God conversing with His servants. The reason is ISLAM AND REVELATION 45 because they no longer witness God’s attribute of speech being manifested among Christians and consequently they have lost faith in its reality. The attributes of God do not change. If God spoke in the past there is no reason to suppose He no longer speaks in the same manner today. No one who believes in God would for a moment suggest He has lost His attribute of hearing. He hears the supplications of His servants today as He has heard them from the very beginning. Similarly it is just as true that He speaks today in the same manner as He has done from the beginning; and it is in Islam that this attribute is to be witnessed in abundance. Here it may be objected that if it is agreed that people of other faiths are not debarred from revelation then how can Islam claim that revelation distinguishes its truth over other religions? If people of other religions also receive revelation then why should it not be said that revelation equally proves the truth of those religions? Revelation in Islam descends in Abundance The superiority of one fruit tree over others is judged by the quality of the fruit that it produces. In a similar way the excellence of Islam can be judged by the quality and quantity of revelation experienced by Muslims. This is not in any way a boastful statement. It is a fact that can be shown to be absolutely true. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, former Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, made the following suggestion to Church leaders for the purpose of determining which of these two religions God favours with His Word. “We invite the attention of all lovers of truth, to whatever religion they might profess allegiance, to the golden principle that a tree is known by its fruit … The world would be materially assisted in its search for truth if Christians could persuade the Pope or other high Church dignitaries to put forward the revelations received by them as against those received by me for the purpose of determining which of them are the true manifestations of God’s power and .knowledge . . . If they were inclined to accept, or could be persuaded by their followers to accept this invitation, it might prove an effective means for healing the spiritual ills from which mankind has so long suffered. The Majesty and power of God would then manifest itself in an extraordinary manner and would help to establish the faith of man and guide his spiritual development.” This invitation was printed and re-printed. It has been widely circulated among Christians including the highest dignitaries of the Churches. The claim that revelation is experienced in abundance in Islam is not, therefore, a mere assertion. It is a fact and it is for those who deny it to accept or persuade their religious leaders to accept the invitation. 46 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Islam and its Relation with other Faiths Before dealing with a second answer to the objection concerning “Revelation and other Faiths” it would be better to explain the fundamental teachings of Islam regarding the position of other faiths. Islam does, in fact, acknowledge the truth of all revealed religions. Islam recognises the truth of all the prophets who preceeded the Holy Prophet of Arabia. A Muslim does not say that all religions other than Islam are false. Islam, while testifying to their truth, at the same time explains that they are not universal in character but religions meant for a particular people at a particular age to suit the needs of those people for whom they were intended. Moses, for instance, was a prophet of God whose teachings were meant to suit the needs of the Israelites of those times. Moses was not a universal prophet but a prophet for the Israelites. Similarly the mission of the founders of all other revealed faiths were confined to a particular people for a particular age. The Gospels confirm that the mission of Jesus was also solely confined to the Israelites. Jesus is reported to have described the object of his mission in the following words: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24). On another occasion he is reported to have instructed his disciples in the following words: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5, 6). It is not intended here to deal with the various lame explanations with which Christians endeavour to hide the meaning of these verses and show that the mission of Jesus was universal on the Bible text which states that he ordered his disciples to go and preach to the whole world. Suffice it to say the word “world” has been used in various places in the New Testament giving the meaning of a territorial kingdom or tribe of people (Luke 2: 1) which is in harmony with the above words of Jesus. If a literal meaning is to be placed on the word “world” then Jesus is represented as making contradictory statements concerning his mission. Islam, on the other hand, is a universal religion embracing a Divine code of laws suited for the needs of all people and for all ages to come. At the time of the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam the world had advanced in many ways and communications between countries was fast improving. Prior to this time the world was not ready for a universal teaching because knowledge of other countries and the means of communication were not sufficient to create world unity. However, as time advanced and the countries of the world began to know more about one another and have closer contact, God raised a universal ISLAM AND REVELATION 47 prophet with a Divine message for all mankind and to establish a universal brotherhood in the world. Islam, therefore, while recognising the original truth of all revealed religions is exclusive in the sense that it is a universal religion established by God and not a religion meant for a particular people and for a particular age. The teachings of other religions consequently became abrogated by Islam on the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Revelations Confirming the Superiority of Islam The second distinction showing how revelation establishes the truth of Islam over other religions even though, as it has been said, it is possible for people of all faiths to have the experience, is one of particular importance. The recipients of revelation in Islam frequently receive revelation testifying to the fact that Islam is the True religion revealed for the guidance of mankind at large. Such kinds of revelations are not received by people of other faiths conveying similar words of confirmation about their respective religions. This again, may sound a very boastful statement but in fact it is no more so than what has been said about the abundance of revelation witnessed in Islam. It is a fact. If Islam truly is all that it claims to be then it is apparent that revelation to the effect mentioned above could not also be the lot of other faiths because God does not contradict Himself. It is out ofthe question that God would tell people of different faiths that they are all on the one and only true path, for such an idea is absurd. The element of prophecy in revelation again comes in as a matter of great importance. The fulfilment of prophecy is a sign and guide for everybody. Already several prophetical revelations have been mentioned along with the remarkable manner in which they were fulfilled and showing without doubt that those persons to whom they were revealed were surely in communion with God. Only such kind of revelations can be presented to the world as a challenge to those who disbelieve in God and also in Islam. Revelations not of a prophetical kind and solely appertaining to oneself cannot be spoken about in order to establish some truth. An objection has been raised that if somebody of another faith claims that he had been told by God in a revelation that he is following the true path then on what grounds are we to challenge the integrity of his statement? This question could be discussed at considerable length but at this place just one clear and straightforward solution will be given from the Islamic point of view. God has manifested the truth of Islam by countless heavenly signs and some revelations have been quoted to establish the fact. As long as the truth of Islam is maintained then it is impossible that the revelation advanced by the person could be true. If he can refute the Divine claims of Islam then some consideration may be given to his statement. 48 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS If he cannot do so then there arises no need to give serious attention to his words. God, has through revelation, emphatically made it known that Islam is the one and only true path. Those who have received revelation to this effect have published them, many of which contained prophecies so that their fulfilment may be a sign to the world of the truth of the revelations. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community claimed to have been raised by God to rejuvenate the love of Islam in the hearts of mankind. God spoke to him saying: “Thy word shall be established and victory shall be manifest.” In short, the Promised Messiah publicity proclaimed that God had revealed to him the truth of Islam. He did not merely assert that he had received revelation but he made known certain prophecies revealed to him so that the fulfilment of the same might serve as a sign to all. Leaders of other religions have not been vouchsafed such special revelations and should anyone claim to have then it is for him to come forward, as do the Muslims, and proclaim them to the world. The account of the leader of a Christian sect who falsely published Divine claims is worthy of mention at this point becase the sad outcome that overtook him testified to the truth of Islam and the Promised Messiah. The Fate of Dr. Dowie of America An American, Dr. Alexander Dowie, claimed that in his person was fulfilled the coming of the fore-runner preceding the advent of Jesus. He founded a city and named it Zion and claimed that his movement was Divine. He succeeded in gaining a large number of followers and proclaimed that Islam was a false religion and would be destroyed. Knowledge of Dr. DO\yie’s boastings came to the ears of the Promised Messiah who wrote to him and challenged his claims. The Promised Messiah said let God judge which of the two of us is the true claimant. He told Dr. Dowie that let them both pray that whoever was the imposter might be destroyed in the life time of the other. In his letter to Dr. Dowie he wrote: “I am about seventy years of age while Dowie is about fifty five and therefore as compared with me he is still a young man. But since the matter is not to be settled by age, I do not care for this great disparity in years. The whole matter rests in the hands of Him who is the Lord of Heaven and earth and Judge over all judges, and He will decide it in favour of the true claimant.” The Promised Messiah went on to say that even if Dr. Dowie did not accept the challenge then still death would overcome him within the appointed time. ISLAM AND REVELATION He wrote: “Though he may try as hard as he can to fly from the death which awaits him, yet his flight from such a contest will be nothing less than death to him; and calamity will certainly overtake his Zion for he must bear the consequences either of the acceptance of the challenge or of its refusal.” 49 (Vide the New Commercial Advertiser of New York). The challenge was published in many of the American newspapers and after a considerable period of time Or. Dowie, on account of critical pressure from the public, referred to the challenge of the Promised Messiah in his own newspaper. He wrote: “There is a Muhammadan Messiah in India who has repeatedly written to me that Jesus Christ lies buried in Kashmir, (the tomb of Jesus has been discovered in Srinager, Kashmir – B.A.O.), and people ask me why I do not answer him. Do you imagine that I shall reply to such gnats and flies? If I were to put my foot on them I would crush out their lives. I give them a chance to flyaway and live.” Almighty God did not withhold His judgement. In accordance with the knowledge He vouchsafed to the Promised Messiah, punishment and death descended upon the imposter. His own people turned against him including his wife and son. He was reduced to a miserable condition and his plight was worsened by an attack of paralysis which disabled his feet with which he had vainly boasted he would crush the Promised Messiah. Soon afterwards death overtook him and a mighty sign illustrating the truth of the Promised Messiah and Islam was manifested for the guidance of mankind at large. Commenting on Or. Dowie’s death the Herald of Boston remarked: “Dowie died with his friends fallen away from him and his fortune dwindled. He suffered from paralysis and insanity. He died a miserable death, with Zion City torn and frayed by internal dissensions. Mirza (the Promised Messiah) came forward frankly and states that he has won his challenge!” Conclusion The purpose of this treatise has been to deal with one particular aspect of Islam – revelation. No doubt it may have given rise to other questions which have not been dealt with as it would have meant deviating from the theme of subject. The subject, also, has not been dealt with as fully as it merits. It is just an introduction to this vital subject and readers are therefore encouraged to give deeper and a more thorough thought and investigation to this Divine truth. They will never regret doing so and will find that it will be to their own spiritual advantage. The REVIEW of RELIGIONS The Review of Religions is the oldest magazine of its kind published in the English language in the Indo-Pakistan Sub-Continent. Its first issue was published in 1902 and it has been continuously published since. It bears the distinction that it was initiated under the direction of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah himself. During more than eighty-three years the message of Islam has been conveyed through this magazine to hundreds of readers and many fortunate persons have recognised the truth of Islam and accepted it through studying it. The articles published in it deal not only with the doctrines and teachings of Islam but also set forth a comparative appreciation of the teachings of other faiths. One of its outstanding features is the refutations of the criticism of Islamic teachings by orientalists and non-muslim scholars. It also presents solutions in the light of Islamic teachings of the problems with which the Islamic worid is from time to time confronted. A study of this magazine is indispensable for the appreciation of the doctrines of the Ahmadiyya Movement and the teachings of its holy Founder. Printed by The Eastern Press Ltd, London and Reading Published by The Review of Religions, The London Mosque, 16 Gressenhall Road, London, SW18 Sal