Prophets The Holy Qur'an

Future of Revelation – Part II

The Rationale of Finality The finality of any prophet can be observed with reference to his message as well as with reference to his status. It is possible for a prophet to be final in his message and his status, yet it is also possible for another lesser prophet to come after him without violating his finality. It is this aspect of prophethood that we are going to thoroughly examine now. The belief in the finality of the Qur’anic law and in the finality of the Prophet(sa) to whom this law was revealed, is unanimously held by all Muslims. The Qur’an – a complete code of life – claims for itself a promise of eternal Divine protection from interpolation by human hands. If this claim is right, as the Muslims believe and demonstrate it to be, the bearer of such a book must be accepted as the last lawbearing prophet. This is clearly understandable and is so endorsed by the entire world of Islam without exception. But from the non- Muslim vantage point, it is difficult to comprehend how any Book could fulfil the needs of all ages and defy the requirements for change during the times to come. Add to this the Qur’anic claim of universality and the problem will increase manifold. How can it be logically explained that any Divine Book could satisfactorily address the ethnic and parochial problems of all mankind alike? There are Europeans, Americans, Africans, Arabs, Russians, Israelis, and numerous people of Asian origin with different ethnic backgrounds and inherited cultures. Their political and social traditions also differ 43The Review of Religions – August 2003 Future of Revelation This is an extract taken from the book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, written by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad(ru). so widely that it is difficult to visualize how a single universal code of religious law could satisfy them with equal justice. In answer to both these questions, the Qur’an claims that all its teachings are founded on the human psyche which is common to mankind and unchangeable in relation to time. Any teaching which perfectly corresponds to the human psyche becomes unchangeable. It is this principle that the Qur’an alludes to when it says: So set thy face to the service of religion as one devoted to God. And follow the nature made by Allah – the nature in which. He has created mankind. There is no altering the creation of God. That is the right religion. But most men know not.1 (Ch.30; v.31) Indeed the nature created by God cannot be altered. Even the atheist must concede that human nature has remained universally unaltered since time immemorial. But a Book of Law corresponding to this unalterable nature can itself be changed all the same by the interference of humans. The Qur’an takes care of this danger by declaring it is a well-protected Book. Verily, it is We Who have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We are its Guardian.2 (Ch.15: V.10) 44 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 History has proved this claim to be right. Hence the Prophet(sa) who was bestowed this Book has to be accepted as the last law-bearer. Nothing in this claim is irrational, but when it is suggested that even non-law-bearing prophets cannot come, the jurisdiction of finality is overextended without any rational justification. No sooner have they made this claim of absolute finality than they venture to demolish it themselves. The cracks begin to appear the moment they hasten to exempt Jesus(as) from this all pervasive law of finality. When confronted with this dilemma, they dismiss it with a mere wave of their hand as though it were no dilemma at all. The reappearance of Jesus(as) as a prophet after Prophet Muhammad(sa), they argue, does not contradict his absolute finality on the following counts: • Jesus would be brought back from a stock of prophets who had already been commissioned before the advent of Prophet Muhammad(sa). Thus his finality will not be violated. It can only be violated if a prophet is raised after his advent even if that prophet brings no new law and is selected by God from within his own Ummah (people). • Jesus’(as) prophethood would be the one granted to him during his advent prior to Islam. • Moreover because during his second advent he would be subordinated to the Holy Prophet(sa) , he would no longer be held as independent. Hence by being an older prophet and by becoming subordinated, he would not violate the seal of prophethood. As such, their concept of 45 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 finality only means that new prophets cannot be commissioned while old prophets can be brought back; but this is sheer absurdity. What manner of an All-Wise God would He be Who would pass the verdict of absolute finality in favour of anyone despite His knowledge that a prophet would certainly be needed after him? The question of old or new is irrelevant. Central to the issue is the question of need. The need for another prophet after the advent of the last is an intrinsically contradictory belief. Faced with this dilemma the Ulema always twist the issue by arguing that the need for the advent of a prophet may occur after the final prophet had come and gone. Yet, the absoluteness of his finality would remain intact as long as the new need is fulfilled by an old prophet. But anyone should be able to see through this transparent effort at cheating. The difference of old or new is just a childish attempt to confuse the issue. If Jesus(as) of Nazareth reappears and submits to the supremacy of Prophet Muhammad(sa), he would still be a prophet after him. To fulfil the new need by borrowing an old prophet from a bygone people is far worse than fulfilling the same need by raising a new prophet from within the people of Islam. If the former does not violate the Doctrine of Finality the latter most certainly cannot. Al-Imam AI Mahdi (The Guided Leader) We may now be permitted to deviate from the issue of Jesus’s(as) re- advent, but only for a while, to turn our gaze upon the status of AI- lmam. AI-Mahdi. According to the prophecies of the Holy Prophet(sa), Jesus(as) does not seem to be the only one whose appearance is predicted in the latter days. One finds the repeated mention of another Divine Reformer. under the title of Al Mahdi, which means ‘The Guided One’. Most traditions speak of Isa(as) (Jesus) and AI-Mahdi (the Guided Imam) as two different persons. But there is one prominent exception. Ibn-e- 46 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 Majah – one of the six authentic books of tradition – creates a strong impression that the two Promised Reformers would in fact be one person, only holding two different titles. The exact words of the tradition run as follows: There would be no Mahdi other than Isa (Jesus)3 This can only mean that the promised Mahdi himself is referred to as Jesus(as). However, Al-Mahdi is to be born within the Ummah, according to most traditions. How then, could he be the person of Jesus(as), if Jesus(as) is to descend from heaven after him? This can only happen if Jesus(as) is a mere title which AI-Mahdi would possess together with his own so that no separate Jesus(as) would descend from the heavens. His role will be performed by AlI-Mahdi instead. It ensues that the prophet Jesus(as) would be born metaphorically, as AI- lmam Al-Mahdi within Islam. This leads us to the issue of determining the real status of Al-Mahdi. As will be shown presently, his status has to be that of a non-law-bearing subordinate prophet though the mainstream Ulema do not refer to him as such. In the case of Jesus(as), they can freely refer to him as a prophet because of the reasons mentioned above; but in the case of Al-Mahdi they cannot do so lest this admission should clearly clash with their Doctrine of Finality. Their strategy regarding the Mahdi is completely different. For them, he will remain an uncrowned prophet to whom all attributes of a prophet are freely granted except for the title. It is like defining a man without calling him one, while calling him by any other name would not make him less than a man. The Ulema must realize that the status of Al-Mahdi must be determined by virtue of his attributes. His entitlement to the status of a prophet cannot be denied him as long as 47 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 he functions as one. If the prerequisites of a prophet are combined in any person, then call him by whatever title you may, a prophet he would always remain. A denial of him, while he will be directly commissioned by God, will be tantamount to a denial of God. As such, whoever refuses to believe in Al-Mahdi as a subordinate prophet will lose his right to be counted among the true believers. Belief in him will be incumbent upon every Muslim, as admitted even by the orthodoxy. Thus he would enjoy a prerogative which is shared only by a prophet and by no one less than a prophet. The act of not granting Al-Mahdi the status he is entitled to enjoy can in no way deprive him of that right. The inconsistency in their beliefs will by no means become less glaring. Non-Law-Bearing Prophets and Revelation In Islam, the status of a prophet is the highest a man is granted. A prophet is not just a person who prophesies, he is the one who is specifically commissioned as such by God. All reformers are not essentially prophets but all prophets are essentially reformers. Revelation by itself does make one a prophet. Even non-prophets can be granted revelation and be blessed by communion with Him. Revelation has a much wider field of application with many connotations such as dreams, visions, inspirations and even verbal addresses. As such it has never been denied by most scholars even in the medieval ages. The controversy only arose in relation to the institution of prophethood and it is this particular aspect of revelation that is being presently examined. One can easily understand the wisdom behind the discontinuity of law-bearing prophets in the light of the foregoing discussion. The question which must be examined at length is, why should non-law- bearing prophets also be discontinued and why should the institution of prophethood in its entirety be brought to an abrupt end? 48 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 The history of religion proves beyond a shadow of doubt that it has never been essential for every prophet to bring a new law. There are many among them like Isaac.., Jacob(as) Joseph(as), Lot(as) and Isaiaha(as), who did not bring any new law. However, they shared with the prophets before them the distinction of having been commissioned by God as Divinely appointed spiritual leaders. References 1. Translation of Ch.30:V.31 by Maulawi Sher Ali. (Note: The author has replaced the word ‘Allah’ by ‘God’) 2. Translation of Ch.15: V.10 by the author. 3. Sunan Ibn-e-Majah. Kit-abul-Fitan. Babo Shiddatiz-Zaman. 49 Future of Revelation The Review of Religions – August 2003 Readers’s Notice As announced by Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih V at the 37th Annual Convention UK, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is inviting anyone who can undertake the work of translating the writings of the Promised Messiah(as), mainly in Urdu, into English. If you can render this service, please write to Mr M.D. Shams at the following address: Mr. M.D. Shams Additional Wakilu Tasneef ‘Islamabad’ Sheephatch Lane Tilford Surrey GU10 2AQ