Book Review

24 BOOK REVIEW PROPHECY CONTINUOUS by Yohanan Friedmann, published by University of California Press, ISBN 0 520 05772 4 Part V Extracts from the above book are narrated YF (Yohanan Friedmann) with the formal response by the Review of Religions (hereafter RR). YF: According to most commentators the meaning of both Khatam and Khatim is last. This understanding provided the impetus for the development of the idea in hadith literature (p.53). The commentators discuss some fine distinctions between the two versions, but these do not amount to anything essential. The reading Khatam, which became the textus receptus is attributed by the commentators to the reader Asim alone; all other qurra preferred Khatim, (several commentators adequately referred) attributed this reading to Asim and al Hasan (al Basri)…. The reading Khatim is said to be supported by the version of Adb Allah b Masud, who read walakin nabiyyan khatama al nabiyyin (footnote p.53). RR: Many orientalists have acknowledged that there is no evidence to suggest that the textus receptus of the Holy Quran as it exists today is in any way different from the Message of God revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him. God Himself has been the Guardian of this text. It had been revealed piece meal. It was committed to memory. It was written down. The whole text, from beginning to end, was recited. All this happened while the Prophet was still alive. Thousands of people had committed it to memory. To turn to a group of commentators on their conjecture (which does not amount to anything essential) and state that somehow Asim’s reading was preferred to all other readers is incompatible with the true history of Islam. Is there any record of such a dispute amongst the early Muslims? Indeed, why should one turn to commentators to know the meaning of Khatam when this word is in every day usage in this Arabic world? (Those meanings are admitted by YF in his subsequent pages. YF provides some excellent background and detailed references and has inevitably tried his best at presenting this debate from all angles. YF appears to sense light bar suddenly abandons the reader in darkness in the pursuit of independent research). REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 25 But there is considerable confusion and internal contradiction in those pages. In the above quoted text, the understanding of Khatam or Khatim as assumed to provide the impetus for hadith literature (Was it hadith which came first or this understanding?). On page 64 we are told that the emergence of (false) prophetic claimants in the Muslim Community gave an impetus to the development of the dogma concerning the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood. We are repeatedly told that early traditions had little or nothing to say about the superiority of the Prophet and yet on pp 54 – 64, YF cites numerous traditions including that of Ayesha admonishing, but do not say that there is no prophet after him. Ayesha’s words were uttered in the early history of Islam. One cannot turn a blind eye to such an utterance or to accredit it to some later development in hadith literature. Neither she, nor any of her contemporaries, nor for that matter their generations, had any incentive in creating such a hadith. One has to examine the subject of finality of prophthood from a logical angle. It cannot be examined logically if one assumes that the religion of one’s forefathers has determined that prophets may only arise from some race and therefore any other claimant must be false. Nor can it be examined logically by attributing to the text of the Holy Quran a different vowel sound, make the verse in which it exists utterly meaningless or by rejecting scores of traditions which prove that the door to non-law-bear- ing prophethood has not been sealed. This is our recommendation to all research scholars; it is not intended to be specific to YF’s treatise. YF: Hanzala b. Safwan is said to have been sent to the Ashab-ur— rass. The tribes of Abd-ul-Qays claimed prophethood for Riab b Zayd who is also said to have made rhymed utterances in praise of Allah. Khalid b Sinan was a prophet who lived one generation before Muhammad. This material indicates that the emergence of Muhammad, his phenomenal success not withstanding, was not a unique event in the history Arabia. It also explains the fact that claimants to prophethood did not cease to appear there from time to time, even after the coming of Islam. Indeed a real upsurge of prophetic claims seems to have occurred durring the Prophet’s life time and shortly after his death, (pp 64-65) RR: Readers would no doubt have noticed that we have been tolerant in our attitude to some very strange and ill-founded allegations against the Ahmadiyya Movement which we can only attribute to some minor misunderstanding on YF’s part. We are nonetheless obliged to defend Islam and the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon 26 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS him, against apparently mischievous and totally irrelevant swipes attempted by authors. Thus, in this case, YF must have known that there had been no prophet in Arabia since Jesus, peace be upon him, up to the advent of Muhammad, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him. He must have additionally known that excessive reliance could not be placed on myth about Hanzala and Khalid because there is ample evidence in Al-Kamilfit Tarikh and Ibn Kathir’s Al Bidaya wa – al Nihaya (both sources referred by YF). Despite nearly every word of the Prophet and his Companions having been carefully recorded, we find no reference to these earlier claimants. YF must also have known that throughout history there have been bogus claimants to someone else’s laurels/Such people ride on the tide of someone else’s fame and begin to claim the attributes, or tittle, or renown of that contemporary famous person. So there was nothing unusual of people like Musailmah, Tulaiha and Harith claiming to be prophets – their motive was utterly political. But what grieves us most here is the remark that the advent of the Prophet was not a unique event in history. God Almighty has called him the Prince of Peace, the Seal of Prophets, a Mercy unto mankind, an Excellent Exemplar, etc. Just as man is the best of creation, the Prophet was the best of men. Almost all historians agree that the advent of Muhammad, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, marked a turning point in the history of man not only in Arabia but throughout the world. Perhaps YF considers all such historians to be false but surly he must believe in the Jewish prophets of the past. The following quotations may perhaps re-alert him about the Prophet whom he has just brushed aside: . And also of the son of the bond woman will I make a nation because he is thy seed. (Genesis 21:13) I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his month, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken ifnto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:18 19) And he said the Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them, he shined forth from Paran and he came with ten thousands of saints, from his right hand went a fiery law for them. (Deuteronomy 19:20) God came from Teman and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heaven, and the earth was full of his praise. (Habakkuk 3:3) • REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 27 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the . government shcdl be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, the Ever lasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) ” Then there are numerous prophecies in Solomon, Daniel etc. which clearly point to none other than the Holy Prophet may blessings of Allah be upon him. Notwithstanding the above evidence, YF may quote from as many sources as he likes, he. will never be able to belittle the lofty status of the Prophet because it is God Who put him .there, YF: The life time of the Prophet was the ideal period: then nascent Islamic community is thought to have lived in strict harmony with the divine writ. This period was not to endure….The virtues bestowed upon the world began to exhaust themselves almost immediately. Thus, though Islam is considered to be the perfect religion, capable of establishing the ideal social order, Islamic tradition, since its emergence, has paradoxically held a pessimistic view of history. In a very famous utterance the Prophet is reported to have said that the best of my community is the generation in which I was sent, then those whofoEow them, then those whofoUow them…. A process of deterioration is thus expected to set in after the completion of Muhammad’s mission. It will pursue till the Day of Judgement when-it will reach its nadir. The world will become full of wicked infidels and will abruptly come to an end (p. 94-95). • RR: Despite this Muslim pessimistic view, why does YF state’ that Muslims have come to regard Muhammad as the best of all prophets. Islamic civilization has always been deeply convinced of its inherent superiority, and it is only natural that its founder should be so highly regarded, (p. 77) •No sane person can ever claim superiority over all others and resign oneself to pessimism about the future. Nor is it correct to say that Islam some how died with the Prophet. The tradition about the process of deterioration is a re-statement of natural law. A thing begins to grow obsolescent the moment it is set up Any machinery begins to depreciate from the moment it is installed. So too with religious movements. We observe that the immediate followers of Moses, peace be upon him, were better than the next generation of adherents. The earlier generation had seen the signs of God and had been nourished by Moses’s spiritual training and knew the application of the law. The next generation were not eye witnesses nor had they lived in the company of that great Prophet. So, to that extent they were second best. .This same law is recognised by Islam. All Muslims agree that the status of the Companions 28 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS was indeed great and that inspite of all the victories which came as Islam spread throughout the world they could not match the tremendous spirit of Islam which prevailed during the Holy Prophet’s time. Nonetheless, this recognition of a natural law and really speaking, only a true religion could acknowledge it cannot be misconstrued as a sense of pessimism. One cannot start putting such labels on a living religion which has more than one billion followers. It is additionally wrong to say that the world will become full of infidels till the Day of Judgement. The prophecies about the spiritual revival and the advent of the Mahdi contain rich material and a ray of hope for all mankind as far as the future is concerned. YF: Part of Ghulam Ahmad’s criticism of them (ulamas) is inspired by medieval Sufi attacks on the wicked ulamas (p.105). Clearly inspired by Ibn ul Arabi’s mystical vision of the world. Ghulam Ahmad could perceive no universe that was deprived of divine guidance (p. 106). Probably influenced by the tajdi theory of Ahmad Sirhindi, Ghulam Ahmad considers the mujaddidun to be prophet like people (p. 109). The classical hadith is clearly the authority that provides legitimacy for Ghulam Ahmad’s use of the concept of muhaddath. His understanding of it is, however, inspired by the Sufi tradition, represented by mystics such as al- Hakimal Tamidhim and Ibn ul Arabi. (p. 110) Strictly speaking, the inspirational sources of his further claim to be Mahdi and Masih are not different, but the central position which these two claims occupy in Ghulam Ahmad’s thought is undoubtedly the result of his desire to counter as effectively as possible the activity of the Christian missionaries in nineteenth century India (p. 111). Ghulam Ahmad… realized the centrality of the crucifixion and understood that his attack… was an attack on the innermost core of Christianity. As in many other cases, his exegesis of the relevant Quranic passages is a modified rivival of certain medieval interpretations. (9.114) Ghulam Ahmad’s views concerning Krishna are thus identical with those of Mirza Mazhar Jan-i-Janan (the eighteenth century Naqshabandi Sufi), though it is not clear whether this is a result of direct influence, (p.123) RR: Such allegations against a man who claims that he is in receipt of divine revelation are not new. People invariably ask wherefrom he has learnt such things. Jesus, peace be upon him, was asked this by the Jewish priests. Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was falsely alleged to have learnt about past prophets from his travels while in the employ of Khadija. One needs to examine the sum total of all the claims of a Prophet along with the signs that God Almighty has taught us in distinguishing His Prophets and test them on that basis and not on the REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 29 basis of his predecessors. Neither the medieval Sufi mystics nor Ahmad Sirhandi claimed that God had informed them that they were the Mahdi and the Promised Messiah whose advent had been awaited by all great world religions. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did, if , by the way, such great scholars, like Ibn-ul-Arabi and Ahmad Sirhandi, had also acknowledged the universal truths that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad did, it shows that such truths were irrefutable. We cannot dismiss a claimant merely because we think that he may presumably have been inspired by some one else’s thoughts. God is their inspiration, YF: The Israeli chain of prophets was started by Moses. He was a legislative and therefore an independent prophet. The Israeli prophets who followed him were not given new books of law and were not legislative….They were nonetheless independent and received their prophethood directly from Allah. In a way, this is an honour which Allah bestowed on the sons of Israel. Yet Ghulam Ahmad perceives religious inferiority in the fact that no member of Israeli community achieved prophetic status by following Moses. Moses had no role in the spiritual upbringing of any of the prophets who emerged after him from among the sons of Israel. In Ghulam Ahmad’s parlance, no Israeli prophet was simultaneosly a prophet (nabi) and a follower (of Moses), a memeber of his community (ummati) It must be said however, that this assessment is questionable ever in its own intellectual framework. Ghulam Ahmad’s argument that none of the Biblical prophets was an ummati of Moses (his denial) that any of them was at the same time a prophet and an ummati, denial of their ummati status is, however, hardly appropriate when the prophets in question undoubtedly belonged to the community umma of Moses, even if they recieved their prophethood independently of their predecessor. Ghulam Ahmad himself does not claim that the Biblical prophets who came after Moses belonged to a community different from that of Moses himself. His apparent implication that divine providence abandoned the sons of Israel in post – Mosaic Biblical period therefore lacks cogency, (pp. 125-126). RR: The passage which has caused so much consternation in YF’s mind actully reads as follows (using YF’s method of transliteration): Aur beni Israel mein agarchay bohat nabi aaye magar unki nabuuwat Musa ki pairwee ka natijah na thaa balkay woh nabuwwatayn barahi raast khuda ki oik mauhibat thiyn. HazratMusa ki pairwee ka is mein aik zarra kuchh dakhal na thaa. Isi waja say meri tar ah un kaye naam naa huivaa keh aikpahlu say 30 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS nabi our oik pahlu say ummati. CHaqiq.atul Wahy pp. 97) This may be restated as follows: And although there were many prophets who came amongst the tribes of Israel, yet their prbphethood was not as a result of following strictly on -the footsteps of Moses but such prophethoods were a beneficent inheritance bestowed directly by God. Following in the footsteps and unstinted devotion to the most honourable and revered Moses he had absolutely nothing to do with their prophethoods. This is why, unlike me, they were not called in one way a prophet and in another a devoted adherent from within the community. What is implicit in the above extract is that the chain of prophets which came amongst the Jewish people was an integral part of the inheritance promised to Abraham through his son Isaac. These Jewish prophets were not charged with a mission only because of their love and devotion to Moses (i.e. Ishq i Musa) i.e… they had no special or specific characteristic affinity to Moses himself. The Promises Messiah has not denied that they they were Israeli in essence. Thus we find no mention of Moses specifically in the claims and teachings of David, Isaiah, Solomon, Jesus etc. because, as YF observes, they were prophets in their own right. However, in the case of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in one manner of speaking he was a prophet and in another manner of speaking he was totally a devoted servant of Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and without the latter he would have been nothing. He has explained this further by saying that the Holy Prophet was like the radiant sun and he (Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad) merely a moon reflecting the light of the sun. As for superiority’ or inferiority, prophets of God do not suffer from such human complexes. It is up to God to determine their true worth. YF: The criticism aroused by this revelation provided Ghulam Ahmad with an opportunity to discuss the question whether Allah, is likely to reveal to His prophets words previously pronounced by man. His response to the question is unequivocal. Allah is the.heir of all human words and must not be blamed of if He deemed it correct to use some of them in His revelation. Ghulam Ahmad finds support for his position on this matter in the famous tradition concerning Abd ullah b.Abi Sarh, one of Muhammad’s writers of revelation (Kuttab ul wahy). According to this tradition, Abd-ullah b. Abi Sarh introduced changes into some passages revealed to the Prophet,’and the’material so modified’ by him was nevertheless incorporated in the Quran, (pp. 137-138). REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 31 RR: There is a slight misrepresentation here. The word warisin har aik shakhs keh qual kaa waris hay in this context means a Master, the Creator, and Originator of all human languages and not the heir of human words. The reference to Abdullah b. Abi Sarh, who was a poet and later renounced his faith, is to his poetic interjection in completing the last part of the following verse (number 15) of the Holy Quran. 13. Verily We created man from and extract of clay. 14. Then We placed him as a drop of sperm in a safe depository 15. Then We fashioned the sperm into a clot, then We fashioned the clot into a shapeless lump, then We fashioned bones out of this shapeless lump, then We clothed the bones into flesh,then We developed it into another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators. (Holy Quran ch 23;13~15) The words So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators uttered by Abdullah b. Abi Sarh while he was being dictated the above revelation by the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, were part of the revealed text and rhymes with the earlier verses. Much hue and cry has been raised by orientalists although ‘there is nothing much to it. Any how, YF has fortunately spared us from entering into lengthy debate on it. Our purpose in setting it above is to draw attention which modification was made but to merely four words in the above verse. Indeed, the Promised Messiah in this reference (Brahini Ahmadiyya vol. 5. Appendix p. 5 : Roohani Khazain Vol21 p 158) has been even more specific by stating that this change was made up of 22 letters, whereas the objections raised about the prophecy of the Promised Messiah contained 21 letters. (The final part of this Review will appear in the next edition). (from page 2) May God grant us the wisdom to make noble resolutions and grant us steadfastness and perseverance to see them through — Amen