The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam
|Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam
by , translated by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam
Introduction to the Promised Messiah (as)
Translated from "The Philosophy of the Teachings Of Islam" by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, The Promised Massiah (as).
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was born on February 20, 1835 at Qadian, an outlying small town about 70 miles to the north east of Lahore. His family was of Persian origin and had been settled at Samarkand in Central Asia. In the first half of the I6th century, his ancestor, Mirza Hadi Beg, moved from Samarkand into India together with a couple of hundred retainers and settled in the Eastern Punjab, where he founded the township which eventually became known as Qadian. As Mirza Hadi Beg was, at third or fourth remove, a cousin of Emperor Babar, he was appointed Judge (Qazi) and administrator of a sizeable tract of land which comprised over 100 villages around Qadian. The town was named Islampur Qazian. In course of time, Islampur was dropped and Qazian, by easy transition, became Qadian.
The descendants of Mirza Hadi Beg continued to flourish at Qadian, and maintained a semi-royal state under the Moghul emperors. The decline of the Moghul imperial authority, which started towards the middle of the 18th century, began to affect the fortunes of the chieftains of Qadian also. Mirza Gul Muhammad, the great-grandfather of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was an enlightened personage, learned and pious, who made Qadian a centre of learning and a resort of scholarly divines. He had a very generous disposition and gave away several villages to smaller Muslim chieftains who had lost their own estates to the Sikhs whose power was on the increase at the cost of the central Moghul authority.
Mirza Gul Muhammad was succeeded by his son, Mirza Ata Muhammad, during whose time Sikh depredations progressively reduced the area comprised within the Qadian estate. Finally, the Ram Garhia Sikhs obtained possession of Qadian itself through trickery and Mirza Ata Muhammad and the members of his family had to move from Qadian and took refuge in the neighbouring state of Kapurthala. Mirza Ata Muhammad died in exile in Kapurthala, but his body was carried by his son, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza to Qadian and was given decent burial in the ancestral graveyard.
When Maharaja Ranjit Singh established his power over the Punjab, he permitted Mirza Ghulam Murtaza, father of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, to return to Qadian and restored to him a few of the villages that had been originally comprised in the Qadian estate.
With the birth of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the fortunes of the family improved in some degree and the intervening period of poverty and privation came to an end.
Mirza Ghulam Murtaza took up military service under Maharaja Ranjit Singh and won distinction in some campaigns. Later, he and his elder son, Mirza Ghulam Qadir, rendered meritorious service to the British, which was duly appreciated by the authorities. Throughout his remaining life, Mirza Ghulam Murtaza continued to spend money, time and effort in the useless and profitless attempt to recover at least some of the villages that had originally been comprised within the Qadian estate. The futility of his attempt embittered his days and he died a disappointed man.
His eldest son, Mirza Ghulam Qadir, who now became head of the family, had in the meantime been appointed to a minor post in the civil administration of the district at Gurdaspur, at a distance of approximately 18 miles from Qadian.
From his childhood, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad exhibited a religious bent, which became more and more marked with the passage of the years. As he grew up he began to devote more and more time to religious exercises and the study of religion, more particularly of the Holy Quran. His father arranged for his tuition at home and he never went to school. When he grew up, his father became anxious to divert his attention to secular pursuits which might prove of benefit to him in later life, but without much success. Out of a feeling of filial obedience and respect for his father, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad would undertake and carry out such particular missions, pertaining to his father's attempts to recover a portion of the patrimony, which his father assigned to him, but he did this with reluctance, as his heart was not engaged in worldly affairs which had no appeal for him.
At one time, his father procured his appointment to a minor administrative post at Sialkot, which he also took up out of a spirit of obedience to his father, and which he readily resigned as soon as his father's attitude permitted him to do so.
He has described his situation at his father's death in the following words:
"I was 34 or 35 years of age when my father died. In a dream I had been warned that his death was approaching. I was then in Lahore and hastened to Qadian. He was then suffering from dysentery but had no apprehension that he would die the following day. In fact, there had been some change for the better in his condition and he appeared quite steadfast. The following day, we were all with him at noon when he kindly suggested that I should go and have some rest, for it was the month of June and the heat was intense. I retired into an upper room and a servant began to massage my feet. Presently I fell into a light slumber and the revelation came to me (Arabic): "We call to witness heaven where all decrees originate and We call to witness that which will happen after sunset." I was given to understand that what was to happen after sunset was my father's death, and that this revelation was by way of condolence on behalf of God Almighty. Holy is God! How glorious is He that He conveyed His condolence on the death of a person who had died sorrowing over the waste of his life. Most people would be surprised at this interpretation of mine that God Almighty condoled with me. It should, however, be remembered that when God, glorified be His name, treats someone mercifully, He deals with him like a friend. We read in the traditions that on certain occasions God Almighty laughed. This also is an expression of the same type.
When I received this revelation, which presaged the death of my father, the thought passed through my mind, due to my humanity, that some of the means of income which were available to my father would now be closed and we might be confronted with difficulties. Thereupon I received another revelation: (Arabic): "Is not God sufficient for His servant?" This revelation conveyed great comfort and satisfaction to me and it found its firm place in my heart. I swear by God Almighty in Whose hand is my life that He has fulfilled this comforting revelation in a manner which I could not have imagined. He has provided for me as no father could have provided for anyone. I have been the recipient of His continuous bounties which I find impossible to count.
My father died the same day after sunset. This was the first day on which I experienced a sign of divine mercy through revelation concerning which I cannot imagine that it would ever cease to have effect during my lifetime. I had the words of the revelation carved on a semi-precious stone and set in a ring which I have with me securely. Nearly 40 years of my life passed under the care of my father, and with his departure from this life I began to receive divine revelation continuously." (Kitabul Bariyyah, pp. 189-195, footnote)
This was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's first experience Divine revelation. As he has himself observed, he was 34 or 3 5 years of age at that time. As time passed, this experience multiplied progressively and gained in volume and scope, comprising Divine assurances of security, progress, support and success, and became studded with grand prophecies and Divine signs.
On his father's death, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad became entitled to half of his father's property, but he left the management of the whole of it in the hands of his elder brother and was content with the meagre and austere provision that his brother made for his maintenance. The world was not his major concern and all his interest and attention were concentrated on communion with the Divine and winning His pleasure.
His father had arranged his marriage at an early age, but even the responsibilities thereby entailed failed to wean him away from the pursuit of that which he had made the purpose of his life. From his first wife, he had two sons, Mirza Sultan Ahmad and Mirza Fazal Ahmad. Under divine direction, he married a second time, in 1884, into a noble Syed family of Delhi. His second wife bore him several children of whom he was survived by three sons and two daughters. The eldest of these was a son born on 12 January 1889, who was named Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad. In his birth was fulfilled a grand multi-faceted prophecy of his father which had been published on 20 February 1886.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's study of religion was not confined to Islam. At an early age he entered upon a study of the principal faiths then current in India which deepened his appreciation of the teachings of Islam, till he emerged as a champion of Islam. He was greatly depressed by the feeling that there was little understanding of true Islamic values even among the Muslim divines and that the common run of Muslims were a prey to ignorance and superstition and had little regard for Islamic teachings.
The collateral branches of his own family were sunk in superstition and made a mockery of religion and religious practices. Some of them openly denounced Islam, gloried in their disbelief, even reviled the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, and held the Holy Quran in contempt. This occasioned great distress to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and, though he made repeated efforts to win them back to sincere allegiance to Islam, God Almighty, the Holy Prophet and the Holy Quran, they had little effect upon the attitude, conduct and behaviour of his collaterals. He was further depressed by the Divine revelation:
"He (God) will cut asunder thy collaterals and will begin (His favours) with thee."
By the time he had arrived at forty years of age, his mind was possessed by a strong urge to undertake the championship of Islam vis-à-vis all other faiths, and he finally announced that he had resolved to set forth the truth of Islam and the utter beneficence of its teachings in an epoch-making book which he designated Braheen Ahmadiyyah. In the preface of the book he announced that if anyone, professing a faith other than Islam, would set forth a convincing refutation of the proofs and arguments expounded in the Braheen Ahmadiyyah and would furnish in support of his own faith even a quarter of the proofs he had adduced in support of Islam, he would be rewarded with 10,000 rupees, at which figure Mirza Ghulam Ahmad valued his entire property at the time. This challenge has not been seriously taken up over a whole century.
While he was still occupied with the compilation of Braheen Ahmadiyyah, of which only four parts had yet been published, he received the revelation that God had commissioned him as the Reformer of the Fourteenth Century of the Hijra, and had entrusted the revival of Islam to him. In pursuance of this commission, he laid the foundation of the Ahmadiyya Movement on March 23, 1889. Soon thereafter, it was revealed to him that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent in the latter days had been prophesied by the Holy Prophet of Islam, on whom be the peace and blessings of God.
The publication of the very first volume of Braheen Ahmadiyyah was acclaimed by the Muslims as an outstanding and matchless performance, and leading Muslim divines and newspapers and journals published appreciation of the great work in highly laudatory terms. In consequence of the publication of the successive parts of Braheen Ahmadiyyah, its revered author had become the most renowned and honoured personage in the contemporary world of Islam.
With the announcement of his claim that he had been appointed the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, a storm of bitter and abusive opposition was let loose against him from all directions. He was condemned as an apostate from Islam who had put himself outside the pale of Islam and all sorts of opprobrious epithets were applied to him. He was called Anti-Christ and it was declared that his life was forfeit. In the estimation of the Muslim divines, he fell utterly from grace and no protestation or explanation on his part served to soften the bitterness of their hostility towards him This continued all through the rest of his life, and though seventy years have passed since his demise, he and his daily expanding Movement continue to be the sharpest thorns in the sides of the Muslim divines. Bitter persecution breaks out from time to time against the members of his Movement, but this only serves to furnish greater publicity to the Movement, in consequence of which increasing numbers of reasonable and reflecting people continue to identify themselves with the Movement.
One of the earliest revelations vouchsafed to Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was:
"I shall carry thy message to the ends of the earth."
At the time of the revelation, he was not widely known even in his own home town and he lacked altogether all normal leans of publicity and propaganda. At that time Qadian had not yet found a place on the maps and did not even possess a telegraph office, and was not connected with the railway system of the province, and could not be reached by a metalled road. The nearest railway station and telegraph office were at a distance of 11 miles, a journey to which occupied the better part of three hours. Despite all this lack of normal facilities, the Ahmadiyya Movement has, during the last seven decades, spread to the farthest corners of the earth and the prophecy just mentioned has been, and continues to be, fulfilled in an astonishing manner.
The main thrust of the opposition to the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has been, and continues to be, that he claimed to be a prophet in contradiction of the Holy Prophet being the Seal of the Prophets as mentioned in the Holy Quran (33: 41). This objection derives from deliberate misrepresentation of his claim. His opponents first wrongly defined prophethood as confined to law-bearing prophets and then turned round and condemned him on the ground that he virtually claimed to be such a prophet, and this in the face of his repeated and emphatic denial of such a claim. Times out of number he has affirmed that he believes that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was the Seal of the Prophets in its highest and widest meaning and that his own claim of prophethood means only that he was favoured with frequent converse with God, but that he has brought no new law, was completely subject to the Holy Quran and that he had been favoured with frequent convers by God on account of his utter devotion to the Holy Prophet peace be on him, and as his perfect reflection. This is put beyond doubt by the following extracts from his writings.
"The summary and essence of our faith is that there is no one worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God. Our belief that we profess in this life and with which, through the favour of God Almighty, we shall pass on to the next life, is that our lord and master, Muhammad, the chosen one, peace be on him, is the Seal of the Prophets and best of Messengers, at whose hands the faith was perfected and the bounty was completed through which by treading the straight path, a person can reach God Almighty. We believe with absolute certainty that the Holy Quran is the last of the heavenly books and that not a word or vowel point of its laws and limits and commandments can be added to or subtracted from. No revelation can now be received from God which can have the effect of modifying or abrogating the commandments of the Holy Quran, or of changing any single one of its directions. Anyone who thinks otherwise is, according to us, not a believer, and is a heretic and Kafir. We also believe that even the lowest stage of the straight path cannot become available to a person without following the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, let alone the higher stages of that path. We cannot attain to a stage of honour and perfection or of nearness to God except through the true and perfect following of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. Whatever is bestowed upon us is by way of reflection and through the Holy Prophet." (Izalah Auham, pp. 69-70)
"The five pillars on which Islam is based are part of our faith. We hold fast to the word of God, the Holy Quran, to which we are commanded to hold fast. Like Farooq, may God be pleased with him, we announce that the Book of God suffices us, and like Aisha, may God be pleased with her, when there is a difference between the Quran and hadith, we give priority to the Quran. We believe that there is no one worthy of worship except God and that our lord and master, Muhammad, the chosen one, peace be on him, is His Messenger and is Khatamul Anbiya. We believe in angels, the resurrection of the body, the day of judgment, heaven and hell. We believe that whatever the Holy Prophet, peace be on him, has said, is true. We believe that whoever subtracts the smallest particle from the law of Islam or adds to it, or lays the foundation of neglecting obligations and of indifference towards them, is without faith and is turned away from Islam. I admonish the members of my community that they should have true faith in the credo that there is no God beside God, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and that they should die in this faith. They should believe in all prophets and all books, the truth of which is affirmed by the Holy Quran. They should observe the fast and perform the salat and pay the zakat and perform the pilgrimage and carry out all that God Almighty and His Messenger have prescribed and should abstain from all that they have forbidden and thus conform in every respect to Islamic commandments. We consider it our duty to accept all that is supported by the consensus of the righteous ones who have passed away and all that is considered as part of Islam by the consensus of the Ahl-i-Sunnat. We call to witness the heaven and earth that this is our religion". (Ayyamus Solh, pp. 86-87)
"No part of my doctrine is contrary to the commandments of God and His Messenger. If anyone thinks so, it must be due to his misunderstanding. Anyone who still considers me a Kafir, and does not desist from calling me one, should remember that he will be called to account for it after his death. I call God, the Glorious, to witness that I have such firm faith in God and His Messenger that if the faith of all the people of this age were placed on one side of the scale and my faith is placed on the other side, then, by God's grace my faith would prove to be the heavier." (Karamat-us-Sadiqeen, p.25)
"The purport of my teaching is: Believe in God as One without associate, and have sympathy with God's creatures and be of good conduct and think no ill. Be such that no disorderliness or mischief should approach your heart. Utter no falsehood, invent no lies and cause no hurt to anyone whether by your tongue or your hands. Avoid all manner of sin and restrain your passions. Try to become pure hearted, without vice. It should be your principle to have sympathy for all human beings. Safeguard your hands and you tongues and your thoughts against all impure objects and disorderly ways and all kinds of deceit. Fear God and worship Him with pure hearts. Refrain from committing wrong or trespass or embezzlement or taking bribes or unfair partisanship and keep away from evil companions. Safeguard your eyes against treachery and your ears against listening to backbiting. Entertain no ill designs against the members of any religion or any tribe or group. Be sincere counsellors for every one. Let no mischief-maker or one given to bad behaviour be ever of your company. Shun every vice and try to acquire every virtue. Your hearts should be free from deceit, your hands should be innocent of wrong and your eyes should be free from impurity. Take no part in any evil or transgression. Put forth your utmost efforts to recognise God, finding Whom is salvation and meeting Whom is deliverance. He manifests Himself to him who seeks Him with love and sincerity of heart, and He reveals Himself to him who becomes truly His. Pure hearts are His thrones and the tongues that are free from falsehood, abuse and vain talk are the places of His revelation. He who loses himself in seeking His Pleasure becomes a manifestation of His miraculous power." (Kashful Ghita, pp. 8 -9)
"It is our faith that the last book and last law is the Holy Quran and that thereafter till the day of judgement, there is no law-bearing prophet nor any recipient of revelation who is not a follower of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. This door is closed till the Day of Judgment, but the door of revelation, through following the Holy Prophet, is ever open. Such revelation will never be cut off, but law-bearing prophethood, or independent prophethood, have been put an end to and will not be open till the day of judgment. He who says he is not a follower of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, and claims that he is like one who has been carried away by a fierce flood and is thrown aside and cannot recover himself till he dies." (Review of the Debate between Batalvi and Chakralvi, p.12)
"It is an attractive principle that promotes peace and lays down the foundations of good accord and helps moral conditions that we should accept as true all the prophets, whether they appeared in India or Persia or China or in any other country, and God established their honour and greatness in millions of hearts and made firm the roots of their religions and let them flourish for centuries. This is the principle that the Quran has taught us and according to this principle, we honour the founder of every religion which has become well established, whether of the Hindus or of the Persians or of the Chinese or of the Jews or of the Christians" (Tohfa Qaisariyyah, p. 6)
"The truth of a prophet might be known in three ways. First, through reason. It needs to be considered whether reason affirms that a Prophet or reformer should appear at the time when a Prophet or a Messenger claims to have come, and whether the condition of mankind demands such a reformer. Secondly, the prophecies of previous prophets should be studied whether any of them had prophesied concerning his appearance or concerning . . . the appearance of a prophet at the time of his advent. Thirdly, it should be considered whether there is divine help or heavenly support for his claim. These three conditions have been laid down from ancient times for testing the claim of a true commissioned one of God. God has had mercy upon you and has established all three conditions in my support and it is up to you to accept me or not" (Lecture Sialkot, p. 49)
"From the beginning I have been of the view that no one becomes a Kafir or Dajjal by rejecting my claim. Such a one would certainly be in error and astray from the right path. I do not call him faithless but he who rejects the truth which God Almighty has disclosed to me would be in error and astray from the straight path. I do not designate anyone who believes in the Kalimah as a kafir, unless by rejecting me and calling me a kafir, he himself becomes a kafir. In this matter my opponents have always taken the lead. They called me kafir and prepared fatwas against me. I did not take the lead in preparing fatwas against them. They would be prepared to confess that if I am a Muslim in the estimation of God Almighty, then by calling me kafir they themselves become kafirs according to the fatwa of the Holy Prophet, peace be on him. Thus I do not call them kafir they themselves fall within the purview of the fatwa of the Holy Prophet" (Tiryaqul Qulub, pp. 258-260)
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, peace be on him, devoted the whole of his life to the service of Islam. He died at Lahore on May 26, 1908. Till the evening of the previous day he was occupied with the composition of a paper designed to furnish a peaceful modus vivendi between the Muslim and non-Muslim sections of the people of the sub-continent, which he designated The Message of Peace.
He wrote and published more than eighty books in Urdu, Arabic and Persian, in which he presented a true exposition of the teachings of Islam, based on the Holy Quran and the practice of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, shorn of all the innovations and encrustations that had been grafted upon them during the centuries of decline. He also set forth in his writings and speeches the life-inspiring philosophy that permeates every Commandment, direction and prohibition comprised in the Holy Quran, which constitutes the guidance that mankind would need in the epoch that was opened with his advent.
FIRST QUESTION The Physical, Moral and Spiritual Status of Man
In the first few pages of this paper I have set forth certain introductory matters which might at first sight seem irrelevant, and yet it is necessary to have a clear concept of those matters for the proper appreciation of the reply to the question that has been set out above.
Three types of Human actions
The first question relates to the natural and moral and spiritual states of man. The Holy Quran has indicated three separate sources of these three states. In other words, it has pointed out three springs out of which these respective states flow.
First source; The self that incites to Evil
The first spring which is the source of all natural states is designated by the Holy Quran the Nafse Ammarah, which means the self that incites to evil, as it says:
The mind of man is ever ready to incite to evil. (12:54)
This means that it is characteristic of the human self that it incites man to evil and is opposed to his attainment of perfection and to his moral state, and urges him towards undesirable and evil ways. Thus the propensity towards evil and intemperance is a human state which predominates over the mind of a person before he enters upon the moral state. This is man's natural state, so long as he is not guided by reason and understanding but follows his natural bent in eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, anger and provocation, like the animals. When a person is guided by reason and understanding and brings his natural state under control and regulates it in a proper manner, that state ceases to be his natural state and is called his moral state.
Second source; The Reproving Self
The source of the moral state of man is designated by the Holy Quran Nafse Lawwama, as is said: I call to witness the reproving self (75:3); that is to say, I call to witness the self that reproves itself for every vice and intemperance. This reproving self is the second source of human state from which the moral state is generated. At this stage man ceases to resemble the animals. Calling it to witness is for the purpose of doing it honour, as if by advancing from the state of the self that is prone to evil and arriving at the state of the reproving self, it has become worthy of honour in divine estimation. It is so called as it reproves man on vice and is not reconciled to man's submitting to his natural desires and leading an unbridled existence like the animals. It desires that man should be in a good state and should practise good morals, and no kind of intemperance should be manifested in any aspect of human life, and natural emotions and desires should be regulated by reason. As it reproves every vicious movement, it is called the reproving self. Though it reproves itself in respect of vices, yet it is not fully effective in practising virtue and occasionally it is dominated by natural emotions, when it stumbles and falls. It is like a weak child who does not wish to stumble and fall but does so out of weakness, and is then remorseful over his infirmity. In short, this is the moral state of human self when it seeks to comprehend within itself high moral qualities and is disgusted with disobedience, but cannot achieve complete success.
The Third source; The soul at Rest
The third source which should be described as the beginning of the spiritual state of man is called by the Holy Quran Nafse Mutmainnah, that is to say, the soul at rest, as is said:
O soul at rest that has found comfort in God return to thy Lord, thou well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. Now join My chosen servants and enter into My garden. (89:28-31)
This is the stage when the soul of a person being delivered from all weaknesses is filled with spiritual powers and establishes a relationship with God Almighty without Whose support it cannot exist. As water flowing down from a height, on account of its volume and the absence of any obstruction, rushes with great force, in the same way the soul at rest flows towards God. That is indicated by the divine direction to the soul that has found comfort in God to return to its Lord. It undergoes a great transformation in this very life and is bestowed a paradise while still in this world. As this verse indicates in its direction to such a soul to return to its Lord, it is nourished by its Lord and its love of God becomes its nurture and it drinks at this fountain of life and is thus delivered from death. This is indicated at another place in the Holy Quran where it is said:
He who purifies his soul of earthly passions shall be saved and shall not suffer ruin, but he who is overcome by his earthly passions should despair of life. ( 91:10-11)
In short, these three states may be called the natural, moral and spiritual states of man. As the natural urges of man become very dangerous when they are roused and often destroy the moral and spiritual qualities, they are described in God's Holy Book as the self that incites to evil. It may be asked what is the attitude of the Holy Quran towards the natural state of man, what guidance does it furnish concerning it and how does it seek to control it? The answer is that according to the Holy Quran the natural state of man has a very strong relationship with his moral and spiritual states, so much so that even a person's manner of eating and drinking affects his moral and spiritual states. If the natural state of a person is subjected to the control of the directions of divine law it becomes his moral state and deeply affects his spirituality, as is said that whatever falls into a salt mine is converted into salt.
That is why the Holy Quran has laid stress on physical cleanliness and postures, and their regulation in relation to all worship and inner purity and spiritual humility. Reflection confirms that physical conditions deeply affect the soul. For instance, when our eyes are filled with tears, even if the tears are artificially induced, the heart is immediately affected and becomes sorrowful. In the same way, when we begin to laugh, even if the laughter is artificially induced, the heart begins to feel cheerful. It has also been observed that physical prostration in prayer induces humility in the soul. As a contrast when we draw ourselves up physically and strut about with our neck raised and our breast pushed forward, this attitude induces a mood of arrogance and vain glory. These instances establish clearly that physical conditions certainly affect spiritual conditions. Experience also shows that different types of food affect the intellect and the mind in different ways. For instance, careful observation would disclose that people who refrain altogether from eating meat gradually suffer a decline of the faculty of bravery; they lose courage and thus suffer the loss of a divinely bestowed praiseworthy faculty. This is reinforced by the evidence of the divine law of nature that the herbivorous animals do not possess the same degree of courage as do carnivorous ones. The same applies to birds. Thus there is no doubt that morals are affected by food. Conversely those who are given to a diet consisting mainly of meat and eat very little of greens suffer a decline of meekness and humility. Those who adopt the middle course develop both types of moral qualities. That is why God Almighty has said in the Holy Quran: Eat and drink but do not be immoderate (7:32); that is to say, eat meat and other foods but do not eat anything to excess, lest your moral state be adversely affected and your health might suffer.
As the soul is affected by physical conduct, in the same way sometimes the soul affects the body. For instance, when a person experiences sorrow his eyes become wet, and a person who feels happy smiles. All our natural actions like eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, moving about, resting, bathing etc., affect our spiritual condition. Our physical structure is related intimately to our total humanity. If a certain part of the brain is injured memory is immediately lost. An injury to another part of the brain causes loss of consciousness. Poisonous air affects the body and through it the mind, and the whole inner system, to which the moral impulses are related, is impaired and the unfortunate victim passes out quickly like a madman. Thus physical injuries disclose that there is a mysterious relationship between the soul and the body which is beyond the ken of man. Reflection shows that the body is the mother of the soul. The soul does not descend from outside into the womb of a pregnant woman. It is a light that is inherent in the sperm which begins to shine forth with the development of the embryo. The Word of God Almighty conveys to us that the soul becomes manifest from the framework that is prepared in the womb from the sperm, as is said in the Holy Quran:
Then we develop it into a new creation. So blessed is God, the Best of Creators. (23:15)
This means that God bestows a new creation on the body that is prepared in the womb and that new creation is called the soul. Greatly blessed is God Who has no equal as a creator.
The affirmation that a new creation is manifested from the body is a mystery that reveals the reality of the soul and points to the strong relationship between the soul and the body. We are also instructed thereby that the same philosophy underlies the physical acts and words and movements when they are manifested in the cause of God, that is to say, all these sincere actions are charged with a soul as the sperm is charged with a soul. As the framework of those actions is developed, the soul with which they are charged begins to shine and when that framework becomes complete the soul inside it shines forth in its full manifestation and discloses its spiritual aspect. At that stage those actions become fully alive. This means that when the framework of actions is completed, something shines forth from it suddenly like a flash of lightning. This is the stage concerning which God Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
When I have completed his framework and have set right all his manifestations of glory and have breathed into him My spirit, then fall down in prostration all of you, on his account. (15:30)
This verse indicates that when the framework of actions is completed, a soul shines forth in it, which God attributes to Himself in as much as that framework is completed at the cost of worldly life. Thus the divine light which is dim in the beginning suddenly flares up, so that on the beholding of this divine manifestation, it becomes incumbent on everyone to fall into prostration and to be drawn to it. Everyone perceiving that light falls into prostration and is naturally drawn to it, except Iblis who loves darkness.
The soul is created
It is absolutely true that the soul is a fine light which is developed inside the body and is nurtured in the womb. To begin with it is hidden and imperceptible and later it is made manifest. From the very beginning its essence is present in the sperm. It is related to the sperm in a mysterious manner by the design and command and will of God. It is a bright and illumined quality of the sperm. It cannot be said that it is a part of the sperm as matter is part of matter, nor can it be said that it comes from outside or falls upon the earth and gets mixed with the matter of the sperm. It is latent in the sperm as fire is latent in the flint. The Word of God does not mean that the soul descends from heaven as a separate entity or falls upon the earth from the atmosphere and then by chance gets mixed with the sperm and enters the womb with it. There is no basis for such a notion. The law of nature rejects it. We observe daily that thousands of insects infect impure and stale foods and are generated in unwashed wounds. Dirty linen secretes hundreds of lice and all sorts of worms are generated inside a person's stomach. It cannot be said that all these come from outside or can be observed as descending from heaven. The truth is that the soul is developed in the body and this also proves that it is created and is not self-existent. The second birth of the soul The design of the Almighty Who has created the soul from the body with His perfect power appears to be that the second birth of the soul should also take place through the body. The movements of the soul follow the movements of the body. If the body is drawn in a particular direction the soul automatically follows it. It is, therefore, a function of the Book of God to direct itself to the natural state of man: that is why the Holy Quran pays so much attention to the reform of the natural state of man and gives directions with regard to every one of his actions, his language, weeping, speaking keeping silent, marrying, remaining single, walking, stopping, physical cleanliness, bathing, submitting to a discipline in health and in illness etc. It affirms that man's physical condition affects his spiritual condition deeply. I cannot undertake a detailed exposition of all those directions as time is not available for such an undertaking.
Gradual Progress of Man
Reflection on the Holy Word of God discloses that it lays down rules for the reform of the natural condition of man and then lifts him gradually upwards and desires to raise him to the highest spiritual state.
First, God desires to teach man the rules of social behaviour like sitting, standing, eating, drinking, talking etc., and thus to deliver him from a state of barbarism and distinguish him from the animals and thus bestow upon him an elementary moral state which might be described as social culture.
He then desires to regulate his elementary moral habits so that they should acquire the character of high moral qualities. Both these methods are part of the same process as they are related to the reform of man's natural condition. There is between them a difference only of degree. The All-Wise One has so arranged the moral system that man should be able to rise from a low to a high moral condition.
The third grade of progress is that a person should become wholly devoted to the love of his True Creator and to a winning of His pleasure. The whole of his being should be committed to God. To remind Muslims constantly of this grade their religion has been named Islam, which means to devote oneself wholly to God and to keep nothing back. As God, the Glorious, has said:
Salvation means that a person should commit himself wholly to God, and should offer himself as a sacrifice in the cause of God, and should prove his sincerity not only through his motive but also through righteous conduct. He who so comports himself will have his recompense from God. Such people shall have no fear nor shall they grieve (2:113)
Tell them: My prayer and my sacrifices, my living and my dying are all for the sake of God, Whose providence comprehends everything and Who has no associate. So have I been commanded and I am the foremost of those who fulfil this concept of Islam and offer themselves as a sacrifice in the cause of God ( 6:163-164)
This is My straight path then follow it and do not follow any other path which will lead you away from His path. (6:154)
Tell them: if you love God then follow me and walk along my path so that God may love you and forgive you your sins. He is Most Forgiving Ever Merciful. (3 :32)
Distinction Between the Natural and Moral States and a refutation of the Doctrine of Preservation of Life
I shall now proceed to describe the three states of man. But before I do so, it is necessary for me to voice a reminder that, as indicated in the Holy Word of God Almighty, the natural state of man, the fountain head of which is the self that incites to evil, is not something divorced from his moral state. The Holy Word of God has classified man's natural faculties and desires and urges, as natural conditions. These, when they are consciously regulated and controlled and are brought into action on their proper occasions and places, become moral qualities. In the same way, moral conditions are not entirely distinct from spiritual conditions. When moral conditions develop absolute devotion to God and complete purification of self and, cutting asunder from the world, turn wholly to God and to perfect love and complete devotion and full serenity and satisfaction and complete accord with the divine will, they become spiritual conditions.
So long as his natural conditions are not converted into moral conditions, man deserves no praise, inasmuch as they are to be found in other animates and even in solids also. In the same way the mere acquisition of moral qualities does not bestow spiritual life upon a person. A person who denies the existence of God can yet exhibit good moral qualities, such as to be humble of heart, to seek peace, to discard evil and not to resist it. These are all natural conditions which may be possessed even by an unworthy one who is utterly unacquainted with the fountain-head of salvation and enjoys no part of it.
Many animals have a gentle disposition, and can be trained to become wholly peaceful and not to react savagely to chastisement, and yet we cannot call them human, let alone humans of high status. In the same way, a person who is entirely misguided and even suffers from some vices, can exhibit these qualities. It is possible that a person may develop mercy to a degree in which he would not permit himself to kill the germs that might be generated in his wounds or might be so mindful of preserving life that he may not wish to harm the lice in his hair or the insects that are generated in his stomach and his arteries and his brain.
I can believe that a person's mercy might impel him to discard the use of honey as it is procured by the destruction of many lives and by driving the poor bees out of their hives.
I can believe that a person may avoid the use of musk as it is the blood of a poor animal and is procured by slaughtering it and separating it from its young. I do not deny that a person might refrain from wearing pearls or silk as both these are procured through the death of worms.
I can even understand that a person in pain might refuse to be bled by leeches and might prefer to suffer pain himself rather than desire the death of poor leeches.
I can even believe that a person might carry his mercy and regard for life to a degree that he might refuse to drink water in order to spare the germs in the water.
I can accept all this, but I cannot accept that these natural conditions can be regarded as moral qualities or that they can serve to wash out the inner impurities which obstruct a person s approach to God.
I cannot believe that to become harmless to a degree in which some animals and birds excel man can become the means of the acquisition of a high degree of humanity. Indeed, I consider this attitude as amounting to opposition to the law of nature and inconsistent with the high moral quality of seeking the pleasure of God. It rejects the bounties that nature has bestowed upon us. Spirituality can be achieved only through the use of every moral quality in its proper place and on its proper occasion, and through treading faithfully upon the ways of God and through being wholly devoted to Him.
He who becomes truly God's cannot exist without Him. A true seeker after God is like a fish sacrificed by the hand of God and its water is the love of God.
Three Methods of Reform: The Advent of the Holy Prophet at the time of the greatest need
As I have stated, there are three springs from which human states flow, namely, the self that incites to evil, the self that reproves and the soul at rest. There are also three methods of reform. The first is that senseless savages should be taught the elementary social values pertaining to eating, drinking, marriage etc. They should not go about naked nor eat carrion, like dogs, nor practise any other type of wildness. This is an elementary stage of the reform of natural conditions of the type that would have to be adopted, for instance, if it is desired to teach a savage from Port Blair, the elementary ways of human behaviour.
The second method of reform is that when a person has adopted elementary human ways, he may be taught the higher moral qualities and should be instructed to employ his faculties in their proper places and on their proper occasions.
The third method of reform is that those who have acquired high moral qualities should be given a taste of the draught of the love of and union with God.
Our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was raised at a time when the world had been thoroughly corrupted. As God Almighty has said:
Corruption has spread over land and sea. (30:42)
This means that the people of the book, as well as those who had no experience of revelation, had all been corrupted.
The purpose of the Holy Quran was to revive the dead, as is said:
Know that God is about to revive the earth after its death. (57:18)
At that time the people of Arabia were steeped in barbarism. No social pattern prevailed and they took pride in every type of sin and misconduct. A man married an unlimited number of wives, and they were all addicted to the use of everything unlawful.
They considered it lawful to marry their mothers, and that is why God Almighty had to prescribe:
Your mothers are made unlawful for you. (4:24)
They ate carrion and some of them were even cannibals. There is not a sin that they were not guilty of. Most of them did not believe in the after life. Many of them denied the existence of God. They killed their female infants with their own hands. They killed orphans and devoured their substance. They had the appearance of human beings but were bereft of reason. They possessed no modesty, no shame, and no self respect. They drank liquor like water. The one among them who indulged indiscriminately in fornication was acknowledged as the chief of his tribe. They were so utterly ignorant that their neighbouring people called them the unlettered ones.
At such time and for the reform of such people, our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, appeared in Mecca. This was the time that called for the three types of reform that we have just mentioned. That is why the Holy Quran claims to be more complete and more perfect than all other books of guidance, inasmuch as the other books had not the opportunity of carrying out the three types of reforms which the Holy Quran was designed to carry out. The purpose of the Holy Quran was to elevate savages into men, and then to equip them with moral qualities, and finally raise them to the level of godly persons. The Holy Quran thus comprehends all those three projects.
The True Purpose of the Teachings of the Holy Quran is the Reform of the three conditions: natural conditions by Regulation become Moral Qualities
Before I embark upon a detailed exposition of the threefold reforms that l have just mentioned, it is necessary to point out that there is no teaching in the Holy Quran which is imposed by compulsion. The whole purpose of the Quran is the three reforms, and all its teachings are directed towards that end. All other directions are the means for the achievement of those reforms. As sometimes a surgeon, in order to restore the patient to normal health, has to perform an operation on him or has to apply an ointment, in the same way the teachings of the Quran, out of sympathy for mankind, have recourse to such means also. The purpose of all its insights and admonitions and directions is to raise man from his natural condition of barbarity to a moral state, and then to lift him from that state to the limitless ocean of spirituality.
We have already stated that natural conditions are not something distinct from moral conditions. When they are regulated and are used on their proper occasions, under the direction of reason, they acquire a moral character. Before they are controlled by reason and understanding they have not the character of moral qualities, but are natural impulses, however much they might resemble moral qualities. For instance, if a dog or lamb displays affection or docility towards its master it would not be described as moral or good mannered. In the same way a wolf or a tiger would not be described as ill-mannered on account of its wildness.
A moral state emerges after reflection and regard for time and occasion come into play. A person who does not exercise reason and deliberation is like a child whose mind and intellect are not yet governed by reason, or is like a madman who has lost his reason and good sense. A child or a mad man sometimes behaves in a manner that has the appearance of moral action, but no sensible person calls such conduct moral, as such conduct does not proceed from good sense and appropriateness, but is a natural reaction to the circumstances.
A human infant as soon as it is born seeks its mother's breasts, and a chicken as soon as it is hatched begins to pick up corn. In the same way the spawn of a leech behave like a leech, a baby serpent behaves like a serpent and a tiger cub behaves like a tiger. A human infant begins to exhibit human reactions as soon as it is born and those reactions become more and more remarkable as it begins to grow up. For instance, its weeping becomes louder, and its smiles become laughter, and its gaze becomes more concentrated. At the age of a year or eighteen months it develops another natural trait, it begins to display its pleasure and displeasure through its movements and tries to strike someone or to give something to someone. All these motions are natural impulses.
Similarly a barbarian who possesses little human sense displays natural impulses in his words, actions and movements and is governed by his natural emotions. Nothing proceeds from him in consequence of the exercise of his inner faculties. Whatever surges up from his inside under the operation of a natural impulse and as a reaction to external stimuli, becomes manifest. It is possible that his natural impulses that are exhibited as a reaction to an external stimulus may not all be vicious, and some might resemble good morals, but they are normally not the consequences of reasonable reflection and consideration, and even if they are to some degree so motivated they cannot be relied upon on account of the domination of natural impulses.
n short we cannot attribute true morals to a person who is subject to natural impulses like animals or infants or the insane, and who lives more or less like animals. The time of true morals, whether good or bad, begins when a person’s reason becomes mature and he is able to distinguish between good and bad and the degree of evil and goodness, and begins to feel sorry when he misses an opportunity of doing good and is remorseful when he has done some wrong.
This is the second stage of his life which is designated by the Holy Quran the self that reproves. It should. However be remembered that casual admonition is not enough to lead a barbarian to the stage of the self that reproves. It is necessary that he should become conscious of the existence of God to a degree at which he should not consider his creation as without purpose, so that an understanding of the Divine should stimulate his true moral qualities.
That is why God Almighty has drawn attention to the need of understanding of the Divine, and has assured man that every act and moral produces an effect which brings about spiritual comfort or spiritual pain in this life, and will be manifested clearly in the hereafter. In short, at the stage of the self that reproves, a person is bestowed so much of reason and understanding and good conscience, that he reproves himself over a wrong done by him and is anxious to do good. That is the stage when a person acquires high moral qualities.
Distinction between Khalq (creation) and Khulq (morals)
Khalq connotes physical birth and Khulq connotes inner birth. As inner birth is perfected through moral development and not merely through the exercise of natural impulses, Khulq connotes moral qualities and not natural impulses. It should be pointed out that the common conception that morals merely mean meekness, courtesy and humility is entirely mistaken. The truth is that corresponding to every physical action there is an inner quality which is moral; for instance a person sheds tears through the eyes and corresponding to that action there is an inner quality which is called tenderness, which takes on the character of a moral quality when under the control of reason it is exercised on its proper occasion.
In the same way, a person defends himself against the attack of an enemy with his hands, and corresponding to this action there is an inner quality which is called bravery. When this quality is exercised at its proper place and on its proper occasion, it is called a moral quality. Similarly a person sometimes seeks to relieve the oppressed from the oppression of tyrants, or desires to make provision for the indigent and the hungry. Or wishes to serve his fellow beings in some other way, and corresponding to such action there is an inner quality which is designated mercy. Sometimes a person punishes a wrongdoer and corresponding to such action there is an inner quality which is called retribution. Sometimes a person does not wish to attack one who attacks him and forbears to take action against a wrongdoer, corresponding to which there is a quality which is called forbearance or endurance.
Sometimes a person works with his hands or feet or employs his mind and intellect or his wealth in order to promote the welfare of his fellow beings, corresponding to which there is an inner quality which is called benevolence. Thus when a person exercises all these qualities on their proper occasions and at their proper places they are called moral qualities. God, the Glorious, has addressed the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, in the words:
Thou dost most surely possess high moral excellences (68 :5)
This means that all high moral qualities such as benevolence, courage, justice, mercy, bountifulness, sincerity, high mindedness etc. were combined in the person of the Holy Prophet. In short all the natural qualities of man as courtesy, modesty, integrity, benevolence, jealousy, steadfastness, chastity, piety, equity, sympathy, bravery, generosity, forbearance, endurance, bountifulness, sincerity, loyalty etc., when they are manifested on their proper occasions under the guidance of reason and reflection would all be accounted moral qualities. In reality they are the natural states and impulses of man and are designated moral qualities when they are exercised deliberately on their proper occasions. A natural characteristic of man is that he desires to make progress and, therefore, through following a true religion and keeping good company and conforming to good teachings he converts his natural impulses into moral qualities. No other animal is invested with this characteristic.
Natural States of Man
We shall now proceed to set forth the first of the three reforms which is inculcated by the Holy Quran and which is related to the natural state of man. This reform relates to what are known as good manners, that is to say, the code that regulates the natural conditions of barbarians like eating, drinking, marriage, etc., and establishes them at a just level of social values and rescues them from an animal existence.
In this context the Holy Quran ordains:
Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters, and your fathers’ sisters, and your mothers’ sisters, and the daughters of your brothers, and the daughters of your sisters, and your foster-mothers and your foster-sisters, and the mothers of your wives and your step-daughters by your wives with whom you have consorted, but if you have consorted not with them, it shall be no sin upon you, and the wives of your sons, from your loins. You are also forbidden to join two sisters together in marriage; but what has passed has passed. Surely, God is Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful. (4:24)
It is not lawful for you to inherit from women against their will. (4:20)
It is not lawful for you to marry women whom your fathers had married, except that which happened in the past. (4:23)
Lawful for you are chaste believing women and chaste women from among those who were given the Book before you, when you give them their dowers, contracting valid marriages, not committing fornication, nor taking secret paramours. (5:6)
In the time of ignorance some of the Arabs who were childless permitted their wives to consort with someone else for the purpose of having a child. The Holy Quran forbade this practice. The expression taking secret paramours has reference to this practice. Then it is said:
Destroy not yourselves (4:30)
and slay not your progeny (6:152)
Do not enter houses, other than your own, freely like barbarians, until you have obtained leave, and when you have obtained leave and enter, greet the inmates with the salutation of peace. If you find no one therein, then enter not until leave is given to you. If you are told by the inmates to go back then go back. (24:28-29)
Do not enter houses by scaling over their walls; enter them through the doors. (2: 190)
When you are greeted with a salutation greet with a better salutation (4:87)
Liquor, gambling, idols and divining arrows are but abominations and Satanic devices. So turn wholly away from each one of them. (5:91)
Forbidden to you is the flesh of a dead animal, and blood, and the flesh of swine; and that on which the name of someone other than God is invoked and the flesh of an animal that has been strangled or is beaten to death or is killed by a fall, or is gored to death, and of which a wild animal has eaten and that which has been slaughtered at an altar, for they are all carrion. (5:4)
If they ask thee what is lawful for them, tell them: All good things are lawful for you. (5:5)
Refrain from that which is carrion or resembles carrion or is unclean.
When you are asked to make room for others in your assemblies then hasten to make room so that others might be seated; and when you are asked to rise up, then rise up without delay. (58:12)
Eat of all that is lawful and wholesome like meat, vegetables and pulses etc. But do not be immoderate in any respect. (7:32)
Do not talk at random and talk to the point. (33:71)
Keep your raiment clean and your bodies and your streets and the places where you sit. Take frequent baths and cultivate the habit of keeping your homes neat and tidy. (74:5-6)
Moderate your voice and speak not with a loud voice nor whisper and, except when needed otherwise, walk at a moderate pace, neither too fast nor too slow. (31 :20)
When you go on a journey, make all preparation and take necessary provisions so as to avoid having to beg. (2:198)
When you consort with your spouses, purify yourselves by bathing. (5 :7)
When you eat give out of your food to him who asks and also to dogs and other animals and birds. (51 :20)
There is no harm in your marrying orphan girls who are under your care, but if you apprehend that you may not be fair in dealing with them because they are orphans, then marry women who have parents and relations to be watchful of them, who would respect you and concerning whom you would be careful. You may marry two or three or four of them provided you can deal equitably with all of them. But if you feel that you may not deal justly between them then marry only one, even if you should feel the need of more than one. The limit of four is imposed lest you should be inclined towards marrying a larger number amounting to hundreds according to your old custom and so that you should not incline towards illicit indulgence. Hand over to your wives their dowers freely. (4:4-5)
This is the first reform of the Holy Quran whereby man is raised from his natural state and barbaric ways to the status of a civilised social being. In these teachings there is no mention of the higher moral qualities. They are concerned only with elementary human behaviour. This teaching was needed because the people for whose reform the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, was sent, were in an extreme state of barbarity and it was necessary that they should be taught the elementary rules of social behaviour.
Why is the Flesh of Swine prohibited
One matter to be kept in mind in this context is that in the very name of this animal God has indicated the reason for the prohibition of its flesh. The Arabic word for swine is Khinzeer which is a compound of Khanz and Ara, which means: I see it very foul. Thus the very name that God Almighty gave to this animal at the beginning points to its uncleanness. It is a curious coincidence that in Hindi this animal is called Suar, which is a compound of Su and Ara. This also means: I see it very foul. It should not be a matter of surprise that the Arabic word Su should have found its way into Hindi.
We have established in our book Minanur Rahman, that Arabic is the mother of all languages and that many Arabic words are to be found in all languages. Thus Su is an Arabic word and its equivalent in Hindi is bad. This animal is also called bad in Hindi. There is no doubt that at the time when Arabic was the universal language this animal was known in this country by an Arabic name which was synonymous with Khinzeer, and so it has continued to this day. It is possible that in Sanskrit this word might have undergone some transformation, but the true word is Khinzeer which proclaims its own meaning. It is not necessary to enter into a detailed exposition of the foulness of this animal. Everyone knows that it eats filth and is utterly shameless. Thus the reason for the prohibition of its flesh is obvious, as by the law of nature its flesh would have a foul effect on the body and the soul of one who eats it.
As we have already demonstrated food affects a person's soul and there can be no doubt that the flesh of such a foul animal would also be foul. Even in pre-Islamic times, Greek physicians had opined that the flesh of this animal particularly damages the faculty of modesty and fosters shamelessness. The eating of carrion is also prohibited in Islamic law for the same reason; that is to say, it affects the moral qualities adversely and is also harmful to physical health. The blood of an animal that is strangled or is beaten to death remains inside the body of the dead animal and they are all carrion. It is obvious that the blood of such an animal is soon corrupted and corrupts the whole flesh. It is established by recent research that the germs in such blood spread a poisonous corruption in the flesh of the dead animal.
Moral Condition of Man
The second part of Quranic reform is that it regulates the natural conditions in such manner as to convert them into high moral qualities. This is a vast subject. If we were to set it forth in detail this paper would become so lengthy that not one tenth of it could be read out in the allotted time. We must, therefore, confine ourselves to the exposition of a few moral qualities by way of illustration.
Moral qualities fall under two heads. First, those moral qualities that enable a person to discard evil; and, secondly, those moral qualities that enable him to do good.
Discarding evil comprehends those qualities through which a person tries that he should do no harm to the property, honour or life of a fellow being by his tongue or his hand or his eyes or by any other organ, nor should he design to do him such harm.
The doing of good comprehends all those moral qualities whereby a person tries to benefit a fellow being in respect of his property or honour by his tongue or his hand or his knowledge, or by any other means, or determines to make manifest his glory or honour, or overlooks a wrong that had been done to himself and thus benefits the perpetrator of the wrong by sparing him physical pain or financial imposition, or inflicts such chastisement upon him in respect of the wrong which is in reality a mercy for the wrongdoer.
Moral Qualities Related to the Discarding of Evil
The moral qualities that the true Creator has appointed for the discarding of evil are known by four names in Arabic which has a specific name for all human concepts, behaviours and morals. The first of these moral qualities is called Ihthan, that is to say, chastity. This expression connotes the virtue that is related to the faculty of procreation of men and women. Those men and women would be called chaste who refrain altogether from illicit sex and all approaches to it, the consequence of which is disgrace and humiliation for both parties in this world, and chastisement in the hereafter, and dishonour and grave harm for those related to them.
For instance, if a person is guilty of an approach towards the wife of another which, though it does not proceed as far as adultery, yet amounts to its preliminaries, it would become incumbent upon the self-respecting husband of the woman to divorce her on account of her willingness to tolerate such an approach. Her children would also be sadly afflicted. The husband would have to endure all this injury on account of the misconduct of a villain.
It should be remembered that the moral quality of chastity would come into play when a person who possesses the capacity for the compassing of this particular vice restrains himself from indulging in it. If he does not possess that capacity, because he is a minor or is impotent or is a eunuch or has arrived at extreme old age, we cannot give him credit for the moral quality of chastity. He has a natural condition of chastity but, as we have repeatedly pointed out, natural conditions cannot be described as moral qualities. They become moral qualities when they are exercised or become capable of being exercised on their proper occasions, under the control of reason.
Therefore, minors and impotent ones and those who deprive themselves in some way of sexual capacity cannot be given credit for this moral quality, though apparently they would be leading chaste lives. In all such cases their chastity would only be a natural condition. As this vice and its preliminaries can be practised by both men and women, the Holy Book of God sets forth directions for both men and women in this context. It says:
Direct the believing men to restrain their eyes from looking at women outside the prohibited degrees so openly as to be sexually excited by them, and to cultivate the habit of guarding their looks.
They should safeguard all their senses. For instance, they should not listen to the singing or beguiling voices of women outside the prohibited degrees nor should they listen to descriptions of their beauty. This is a good way of preserving the purity of their looks and hearts. In the same way:
direct believing women that they should restrain their eyes from looking at men outside the prohibited degrees and should safeguard their ears against listening to the passionate voices of such men. They should cover up their beauty and should not disclose it to anyone outside the prohibited degrees. They should draw their head-coverings across their bosoms and should thus cover up their heads and ears and temples. They should not strike their feet on the ground like dancers. These are directions which can safeguard against moral stumbling. (24:31-32)
The second method is to turn to God Almighty and to supplicate Him to be safeguarded against stumbling and slipping. Another direction is:
Approach not adultery (17:33)
This means that one should avoid all occasions that might incite one's mind in that direction, and should eschew all the paths that might lead to this vice. He who indulges in this vice carries his viciousness to the extreme. The way of adultery is an evil way as it obstructs one's progress towards the goal and is extremely harmful to the achievement of the purpose of life. Those who find no means of marriage should keep themselves chaste through the adoption of other means (24:34); for instance, through fasting or dieting or exercise.
People sometimes adopt celibacy or submit to castration and take up monasticism.
God has not prescribed monasticism and that is why those who adopt it prove unable to conform to its discipline. (57:28)
This is an indication that if celibacy and monasticism had been imposed by the Divine, everyone would have had to adopt this discipline, in which case the human race would have come to an end long ago. Also, if chastity had to be preserved through castration or any other such device, it would amount to criticism of the Divine Who has bestowed this capacity upon man. Besides merit depends upon restraining the exercise of a capacity on an improper occasion, through fear of God, and thus acquiring double benefit through its proper exercise. By destroying the capacity a person would deprive himself of both benefits. Merit depends upon the possession of the capacity and its proper regulation. What merit would a person acquire who has lost that capacity and has become like a child? Does a child deserve merit because of his chastity ?
Five remedies against unchastity
In these verses God Almighty has not only set forth excellent teaching for acquiring the quality of chastity but has furnished man with five remedies against unchastity. These are: to restrain one's eyes from gazing on those who are outside the prohibited degrees; to restrain one's ears from listening to their voices and to descriptions of their good looks; to avoid occasions which might furnish incitement towards this vice; and to control oneself during the period of celibacy through fasting, dieting etc.
We can confidently claim that this excellent teaching with all its devices that is set forth in the Holy Quran is peculiar to Islam. It should be kept in mind that as the natural condition of man, which is the source of his passions, is such that he cannot depart from it without a complete change in himself, his passions are bound to be roused, or in other words put in peril, when they are confronted with the occasion and opportunity for indulging in this vice. Therefore, God Almighty has not instructed us that we might freely gaze at women outside the prohibited degrees and might contemplate their beauty and observe all their movements in dancing etc. But that we should do so with pure looks. Nor have we been instructed to listen to the singing of these women and to lend ear to tales of their beauty, but that we should do so with a pure intent. We have been positively commanded not to look at their beauty, whether with pure intent or otherwise, nor to listen to their musical voices or to descriptions of their good looks, whether with pure intent or otherwise. We have been directed to eschew all this as we eschew carrion, so that we should not stumble. It is almost certain that our free glances would cause us to stumble sometime or the other.
As God Almighty desires that our eyes and our hearts and all our limbs and organs should continue in a state of purity, He has furnished us with this excellent teaching. There can be no doubt that unrestrained looks become a source of danger. If we place soft bread before a hungry dog, it would be vain to hope that the dog should pay no attention to it. Thus God Almighty desired that human faculties should not be provided with any occasion for secret functioning and should not be confronted with anything that might incite dangerous tendencies.
This is the philosophy that underlies the Islamic regulations relating to the observance of the veil. The Book of God does not aim at keeping women in seclusion like prisoners. This is the concept of those who are not acquainted with the correct pattern of Islamic ways. The purpose of these regulations is to restrain men and women from letting their eyes to rove freely and from displaying their good looks and beauties, for therein lies the good both of men and of women. It should be remembered that to restrain one's looks and to direct them only towards observing that which is permissible is described in Arabic by the expression ghadde basar, which is the expression employed in the Holy Quran in this context. It does not behove a pious person who desires to keep his heart pure that he should lift his eyes freely in every direction like an animal. It is necessary that such a one should cultivate the habit of ghadde basar in his social life. This is a blessed habit through which his natural impulses would be converted into a high moral quality without interfering with his social needs. This is the quality which is called chastity in Islam.
The second quality in the context of the discarding of evil is the one known as honesty or integrity, that is to say, intolerance of the causing of harm to a fellow being by taking possession of his property dishonestly or unlawfully. Integrity is one of the natural conditions of man. That is why an infant, who follows his natural bent and who has not yet acquired any bad habit, so much dislikes anything belonging to another that it can only be persuaded with difficulty to be suckled by a wet nurse. If a wet nurse is not appointed for it while it is quite small and has not yet developed a keen consciousness. It becomes very difficult for a wet nurse to suckle it. It is naturally disinclined to be suckled by a woman other than its mother. This disinclination sometimes imposes great suffering upon it, and in extreme cases pushes it to the brink of death.
What is the secret of this disinclination? It is that it naturally dislikes to leave its mother and to turn to something that belongs to another. When we reflect deeply upon this habit of an infant it becomes clear that this habit is at the root of all honesty and integrity. No one can be credited with the quality of integrity unless his heart becomes charged with dislike and hatred of the property of another as is the case with an infant. But an infant does not always employ this habit on its proper occasion and consequently imposes great suffering upon itself. This habit is only a natural condition which it exhibits involuntarily; it is not, therefore, a moral quality, though it is at the root of the moral quality of integrity. As an infant cannot be described as religious minded and trustworthy because of this habit, so also a person who does not exercise this natural habit on its proper occasion cannot be held to possess this moral quality. It is very difficult to become trustworthy and a person of integrity. Unless a person observes all aspects of integrity he cannot be judged truly trustworthy or honest.
In this context God Almighty has instructed us in different aspects of integrity in the following verses: Should there be among you a person of property who is an orphan or minor and it is apprehended that he would waste his property through his lack of sense, you should take charge of his property as a custodian and should not hand it over to him, inasmuch as the whole system of commerce and social security depends upon proper care of property. Out of the income of the property you should provide for the maintenance of its owner and you should instruct him in all equitable values that would help to develop his reason and understanding and would furnish him with proper training so that he should not remain ignorant and inexperienced. If he is the son of a merchant he may be instructed in the ways of business and commerce, and if his father followed some profession or other occupation he may be given training in some appropriate occupation. Test him from time to time whether he is making progress in his training. When he arrives at the age of maturity, that is to say about 18 years, and you perceive that he has developed enough intelligence to look after his property, hand over his property to him. Do not deal with his property wastefully while it is in your charge, out of the apprehension that when he grows up he will take it over from you. If the custodian is in easy circumstances he should not make any charge for administering the property. But if he is poor let him make use of as much of it as is fair.
The custom among Arab custodians of an orphan's property was that the property was used as capital for commerce and out of its profit provision was made for the orphan and thus the capital was not destroyed. The custodian made a fair charge for looking after the property. This is the system to which reference is made in these verses. Then it is said:
When you hand over the property to its owner you should do so before witnesses. (4:6-7)
Those of you who are likely to leave behind minor children should give no directions by way of testament which should operate unfairly against the children. Those who consume the substance of orphans unjustly only devour fire into their bellies and shall enter a blazing fire. (4:10-11)
It is to be observed how many aspects of honesty and integrity God Almighty has set forth in these verses. A truly honest person is one who keeps in mind all these aspects. If this is not done with perfect intelligence his trustworthiness would cover many hidden dishonesties.
Then it is directed:
Do not devour each other's substance through deceit and falsehood, nor offer your wealth as a bribe to the authorities, that you may deliberately acquire a part of other people's wealth through injustice. (2:189)
Make over the trusts to those entitled to them. (4:59)
God does not love those who are dishonest. (8:59)
Give full measure when you measure, out and weigh out with a true balance. ( 17:36)
Do not deliver short; and do not go about creating disorder in the land. (26:184)
This means that you should not go about in the land with an evil intent, to commit theft or robbery or to pick pockets or to acquire the property of other people through unlawful means. Do not give that which is defective in exchange for that which is good ( 4:3); that is to say, as embezzlement is unlawful, so the sale of defective articles representing them as being in good condition, and the exchange of defective articles in return for good ones, is also unlawful.
In all these verses God Almighty has set forth all dishonest practices in such a comprehensive way that no type of dishonesty has been omitted. Lie has not merely forbidden theft, lest a stupid person should consider that though theft is forbidden all other improper methods of acquiring property are permitted. Forbidding all improper methods of acquiring property in a comprehensive way is true wisdom. In short, if a person does not possess the quality of integrity in all its aspects, he would not be considered honest even if he exhibits honesty in certain matters. That would be only his natural condition? Shorn of reasonable discrimination and true insight.
The third moral quality in the context of discarding evil is designated in Arabic as hudnah or haun, which means refraining from inflicting physical pain on anyone and behaving peacefully. Without a doubt peacefulness is a high moral quality and is essential for humanity. The natural impulse corresponding to this moral quality, the regulation of which converts it into a moral quality, which is possessed by an infant, is attachment. It is obvious that in his natural condition man is unable to conceive of peacefulness or combativeness. In that condition the impulse of attachment that he exhibits is the root of peacefulness, but as it is not exercised under the control of reason or reflection and with deliberation, it is not accounted a moral quality. It becomes a moral quality when a person deliberately makes himself harmless and exercises the quality of peacefulness on its proper occasion, and refrains from using it out of place. In this context the Divine teaching is:
Try to promote accord between yourselves. (8:2)
Peace is best. (4:129)
when they incline towards peace, do you incline towards it also. (8:62)
The true servants of the Gracious One walk upon the earth in humility. (25:64)
and when they Come upon something vain, which might develop into strife, they pass on with dignity. (25:73)
That is to say, they do not start quarrelling over trifles and do not make small matters which do not cause much harm an occasion for discord. The expression vain that is employed in this verse means mischievous utterance of words or doing something which causes little damage and does little harm. Peacefulness means that one should overlook conduct of that type and should act with dignity; but if a person's conduct does real harm to life or property or honour, the moral quality that should come into play in apposition to it is not peacefulness but forbearance, to which we shall revert later.
Should anyone behave mischievously towards you, you should try to repel it with peacefulness, whereby he who is your enemy will become your warm friend. (41:35)
In short, peacefulness means overlooking trivial matters of annoyance which occasion no great harm, and are more-or less confined to uttering nonsense.
The fourth moral quality in the context of discarding evil is courtesy or a good word. The natural impulse which is at the root of this moral quality is cheerfulness. Before an infant is able to express itself in words it displays cheerfulness as a substitute for courtesy and good talk. That shows that the root of courtesy is cheerfulness which is a natural faculty and is converted into the moral quality of courtesy by being used on its proper occasion. The Divine teaching in this context is:
Say to people that which is good. (2:84)
Let not one people deride another people, haply they may be better than themselves; nor let one group of women deride another, haply the last may be better than the first. Defame not your people nor call them names. (49:12)
Eschew too much suspicion; Also spy not, nor backbite one another. (49:13)
Do not charge anyone with anything of which you have no proof, and remember that the ear and the eye and the heart will all be called to account. (17:37)
Moral Qualities Related to the Doing of Good
The second type of moral qualities are those that are related to doing good. The first of these is forbearance or forgiveness. He who commits an offence against another causes him pain or harm and deserves to be punished either through the process of the law, with imprisonment or fine, or directly by the person offended. To forgive him, if forgiveness should be appropriate, would be to do him good. In this context the teaching of the Holy Quran is:
Those who control their tempers when they are roused and who overlook people's faults when that is appropriate. (3:135)
The recompense of an injury is a penalty in proportion thereto; but whose forgives and effects thereby a reform in the offender, and no harm is apprehended, that is to say, exercises forgiveness on its appropriate occasion, will have his reward with God. (42:41)
This verse shows that the Quran does not teach non-resistance to evil on all occasions, or that mischief makers and wrongdoers should never be punished. Its teaching is that one must consider whether the occasion calls for forgiveness or punishment, and to adopt the course which would be best in the interests both of the offender and the public. Sometimes an offender turns away from wrongdoing in consequence of being forgiven, and sometimes forgiveness incites him to further wrongdoing. Therefore, God Almighty directs that we should not develop the habit of forgiving blindly on all occasions, but should consider carefully whether forgiveness or punishment would be most appropriate, and, therefore, a virtue, in each particular case, and should adopt that course. Some people are so vindictive that they keep in mind the wrongs done to their fathers through generations, and there are others who carry forbearance and forgiveness to the extreme, sometimes even to the limit of shamelessness. They exercise such weakness, forgiveness and forbearance as are utterly inconsistent with dignity, honour, jealousy and chastity. Their conduct is a stain on good character and the result of their forgiveness and forbearance is that people are disgusted with them. That is why the Holy Quran attaches the condition of appropriate time and place for the exercise of every moral quality, and does not approve the exercise of a moral quality out of its place.
It should be remembered that forgiveness is not a moral quality in itself. It is a natural impulse which is found in children also. A child soon forgets an injury, if it is inflicted upon him wrongfully, and again approaches affectionately the person who has inflicted the injury upon him, even if such a person should intend to kill him. He is pleased with his beguiling words. Such forgiveness is in no sense a moral quality. It would become a moral quality when it is exercised in its proper place and on its proper occasion; otherwise it would only be a natural impulse. There are few people who are able to distinguish between a natural impulse and a moral quality. We have repeatedly pointed out the distinction between a true moral quality and a natural condition, which is that a moral quality is conditioned by conformity to place and occasion, and a natural impulse often comes into play out of place. A cow is harmless and a goat is humble but we do not attribute these qualities to them because they are not invested with a sense of time and place. Divine wisdom and God's true and perfect Book have made every moral quality subject to time and place for its proper exercise.
The second moral quality in this category is equity, and the third is benevolence and the fourth is graciousness as between kindred. God, the Glorious, has said:
This means that we are commanded to return good for good, and to exercise benevolence when it is called for, and to do good with natural eagerness as between kindred, when that should be appropriate. (16:91)
God Almighty forbids transgression or that you should exercise benevolence out of place or should refrain from exercising it when it is called for; or that you should fall short of exercising graciousness as between kindred on its proper occasion, or should extend it beyond its appropriate limit. This verse sets forth three graduations of doing good.
The first is the doing of good in return for good. This is the lowest gradation and even an average person can easily acquire this gradation that he should do good to those who do good to him.
The second gradation is a little more difficult than the first, and that is to take the initiative in doing good out of pure benevolence. This is the middle grade. Most people act benevolently towards the poor. But there is a hidden deficiency in benevolence, that the person exercising benevolence is conscious of it and desires gratitude or prayer in return for his benevolence. If on any occasion the other person should turn against him he considers him ungrateful. On occasion he reminds him of his benevolence or puts some heavy burden upon him. The benevolent ones have been admonished by God Almighty:
Render not vain your alms by reproaches or injury. (2:265)
The Arabic word for alms (Sadaqah) is derived from a root (sidq) that means sincerity. If the heart is not inspired by sincerity in bestowing alms the almsgiving ceases to be alms and become mere display. That is why those who exercise benevolence have been admonished by God Almighty not to render vain their benevolence by reproaches or injury.
The third grade of doing is graciousness as between kindred. God Almighty directs that in this grade there should be no idea of benevolence or any desire for gratitude, but good should be done out of such eager sympathy as, for instance, a mother does good to her child. This is the highest grade of doing good which cannot be exceeded. But God Almighty has conditioned all these grades of doing good with their appropriate time and place. The verse cited above clearly indicates that if these virtues are not exercised in their proper places they would become vices.
For instance, if equity exceeds its limits it would take on an unwholesome aspect and would become indecent. In the same way a misuse of benevolence would take on a form which would be repelled by reason and conscience; and in the same way graciousness between kindred would become transgression. The Arabic word for transgression is baghy, which connotes excessive rain which ruins crops. A deficiency in the discharge of an obligation or an excess in its discharge are both baghy. In short, whichever of these three qualities is exercised out of place becomes tainted. That is why they are all three conditioned by the due observance of place and occasion. It should be remembered that equity or benevolence or graciousness between kindred is not in itself a moral quality. They are man's natural Conditions and faculties that are exhibited even by children before they develop their reason. Reason is a condition of the exercise of a moral quality and there is also a condition that every moral quality should be exercised in its proper place and on its proper occasion.
There are several other directions set out in the Holy Quran concerning benevolence which are all made subject to the condition of place and time.
It is said:
O ye who believe, spend by way of generosity or benevolence or charity such of your wealth as you have acquired lawfully, that is to say, no part of which has been acquired through theft or bribery or dishonesty or embezzlement or wrongdoing. Do not select for charity out of it that which is useless or unclean. (2:268)
Render not vain your alms with reproaches or injury, that is to say, never remind your donee that you had bestowed anything on him nor inflict any injury upon him, for in such case your charity would be rendered vain, nor spend your money merely for display. (2:265)
Be benevolent towards your fellow beings, for God loves those who are benevolent. (2:196)
The truly virtuous shall drink of a cup tempered with camphor. (76:6-7)
The reference to camphor means that their hearts will be cleansed of all the burning desires and impure urges of the world. The root of the Arabic word for camphor connotes suppression, or covering up, which means that their illicit emotions will be suppressed and they will become pure hearted and will enjoy the coolness of understanding. Then it is said that they will drink from a spring which they shall cause to gush forth from the earth through their efforts. This indicates a deep mystery of the philosophy of paradise. Let him who has understanding understand it.
The truly virtuous feed the poor, the orphan, and the captive for the love of God with such foods as they eat themselves, assuring them: we are not laying you under any obligation but feed you only to win God's pleasure. We desire no return or thanks from you. (76:9-10)
This is an indication that they exercise the third grade of doing good which proceeds out of pure sympathy.
The truly virtuous are in the habit of spending their wealth out of love of God on their kindred and on the upbringing and training of orphans and in making provision for the poor and for providing comfort for travellers and for those who ask and for procuring the freedom of slaves and discharging the burdens of those who are in debt. (2:178)
They are neither extravagant nor niggardly, but keep a balance between the two. (25:68)
They join together that which God has bidden to be joined, and fear their Lord. (13:22)
In their wealth those who ask and those who are unable to ask have a right. ( 51:20)
By those who are unable to ask are meant animals such as dogs, cats, sparrows, oxen, donkeys, goats and others that cannot express their needs in words.
They do not hold back in times of scarcity or famine, but continue to spend at such times also according to their capacity. (3:135)
They spend in charity secretly and openly. (13:23)
secretly, so that they might safeguard themselves against displaying their charity, and openly, so that they might set an example for others. That which is set aside for charity should be spent on the poor and the needy, and on those employed in connection with its collection and distribution, and to help those who have to be rescued from some evil, and on procuring the freedom of slaves, and on those burdened with debts, and the afflicted and on other purposes which are purely for the sake of God and on those striving in the cause of God. (9:60)
You cannot attain the highest grade of virtue unless you spend for the promotion of the welfare of your fellow beings that part of your wealth which you hold dear. (3:93)
Render to the poor their due and to the needy and the wayfarer but safeguard yourselves against extravagance. (17:27)
This is a direction to restrain people from spending unnecessarily on weddings and luxuries and on the occasion of the birth of a child etc.
Be benevolent towards parents and kindred, and orphans and the needy and the neighbour who is a kinsman, and the neighbour who is not related to you, and the wayfarer and your servants and your horses and your cattle and your other animals that you possess. This is what God loves. He loves not those who are heedless and selfish, and those who are niggardly and enjoin other people to be niggardly, and conceal their wealth and tell those who are needy that they have nothing which they can give them. (4:37-38)
Of the natural conditions of man is that which resembles courage, as an infant sometimes seeks to thrust his hand into the fire on account of its natural condition of fearlessness. In that condition a person fearlessly confronts tigers and other wild beasts and issues forth alone to fight a large number of people. Such a one is considered very brave. But this is only a natural condition that is found even in savage animals and in dogs. True courage which is one of the high moral qualities is conditioned by place and occasion, which are mentioned in the Holy Word of God as follows:
Those who are steadfast in adversity and under affliction and in battle. (2:178)
their steadfastness is for the purpose of seeking the countenance of God and not for the display of bravery. (13:23)
They are threatened that people have gathered together to persecute them and they should be afraid of them, but this only adds to their faith and they say: Sufficient for us is God. (3: 174)
Thus their courage and bravery are not like that of dogs and wild animals which proceed from natural passions and are only one-sided. Their courage has two aspects. Sometimes they contend out of their personal courage against the passions of their selves and overcome them; and sometimes when they feel that it is appropriate to fight against an enemy they issue forth against him, not out of any urge of a roused self but for the support of truth. They do not depend upon their selves but trust in God and behave courageously. They do not issue forth from their homes insolently and to be seen of people. Their only purpose is to win the pleasure of God. (8:48)
These verses illustrate that true courage derives from steadfastness. To be steadfast against every personal passion or against any calamity that attacks like an enemy and not to run away out of cowardice is true courage. Thus there is a great difference between human courage and the courage of a wild beast. A wild animal is moved only in one direction when it is roused, but a man who possesses true courage chooses confrontation or non-resistance whichever might be appropriate to the occasion.
One of the natural qualities of man is truthfulness. Normally, unless a person is moved by some selfish motive, he does not wish to tell a lie. He is averse to falsehood and is reluctant to have recourse to it. He is displeased with a person who is proved to have told a lie, and looks down upon him. But this natural inclination cannot be accounted a moral quality. Even children and the insane exhibit it. Unless a person discards those purposes which lead him away from telling the truth, he cannot be considered truthful. If a person tells the truth where no personal interest is involved, and is ready to have recourse to a falsehood where his honour or property or life is concerned, and fails to tell the truth, he is no better than a child or an insane person. Do not the insane and minors speak such truth? There is scarcely anyone in the world who would tell a lie without any purpose. The truth that might be abandoned in order to escape some loss that threatens is not a moral quality. The proper occasion of telling the truth is when one apprehends loss of life or property or honour. In this context Divine teaching is:
Shun the abomination of idols, and shun all words of falsehood. (22:31)
This shows that falsehood is also an idol and he who relies upon it ceases to trust in God. Thus, by uttering a lie one loses God.
When you are called upon to testify to the truth, do not fail to do so. (2:283)
and do not conceal true testimony, he who conceals it has a sinful heart. (2:284 )
When you speak, tell the truth and hold the scales even, though the person concerned be your kinsman. (6:153)
Be strict in observing justice and bear witness only for the sake of God, even if it should occasion loss to you or your parents or your kinsmen or sons? etc. ( 4:136)
Let not the enmity of a people towards you incite you to injustice or falsehood. (5:9)
Truthful men and truthful women will have a great reward from God. (33:36)
They exhort one another to hold fast to the truth. (103:4)
Those who do not keep company with the untruthful. (25:73)
One of the natural qualities of man is steadfastness during illness and under afflictions, to which he has recourse after much complaining and sorrowing. It is natural that a person cries and groans under affliction and in the end, after giving vent to his grievance, he beats a retreat. Both these conditions are natural but are not in any sense part of a moral quality. In this context the relevant moral quality is that when one suffers a loss one should consider it as rendering back to God that which He had bestowed, and should utter no complaint about it. One should affirm that it was a bounty of God which He has recalled and that one is reconciled to God's pleasure. In this context the Holy Quran admonishes us:
We shall surely try you with somewhat of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and of the fruits of your labour and sometimes your dear children will die; then give glad tidings to the steadfast, who, when a misfortune overtakes them, do not lose heart, but affirm: we belong to God and are His servants and to Him shall we return it is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly guided. (2:156-157)
This moral quality is called steadfastness or reconciliation to the Divine will. From one aspect it might be called equity or justice. Throughout a person’s life, God Almighty manifests thousands of matters in accord with the wishes of a person and bestows numberless bounties upon him, so that it would be inequitable on his part that on such occasions when God calls upon him to submit to His will, he should turn away, not pleased with the will of God, and should be critical or lose faith or go astray.
Sympathy for Mankind
Of the natural qualities of man is his sympathy for his fellow beings. The followers of every religion have natural sympathy for their own people and many of them, under the urge of such sympathy, act wrongfully towards other people, as if they do not regard them as human beings. This state cannot be described as a moral quality. It is a natural urge which is manifested even by birds. For instance, when one crow dies hundreds of crows flock together. This quality would be accounted a high moral quality when it is exercised on its proper occasion justly and equitably. It would be a great moral quality which is designated sympathy both in Arabic and Persian. This is referred to by God, the Exalted in the Holy Quran. God Almighty has directed in the Holy Quran:
Assist one another in piety and rectitude, and assist not one another in sin and transgression. (5:3)
Slacken not in serving your fellow beings. (4:105)
Contend not on behalf of the treacherous. (4:106)
Plead not on behalf of those who persist in being unfaithful. God loves not those who are perfidious. (4:108)
Search for an Exalted Being
Of the natural conditions of man is his search after an Exalted Being towards Whom he has an inherent attraction. This is manifested by an infant from the moment of its birth. As soon as it is born, it displays a spiritual characteristic that it inclines towards its mother and is inspired by love of her. As its faculties are developed and its nature begins to display itself openly, this inherent quality is displayed more and more strongly. It finds no comfort anywhere except in the lap of its mother. If it is separated from her and finds itself at a distance from her its life becomes bitter. Heaps of bounties fail to beguile it away from its mother in whom all its joy is concentrated. It feels no joy apart from her.
What, then, is the nature of the attraction which an infant feels so strongly towards its mother ?
It is the attraction which the True Creator has implanted in the nature of man. The same attraction comes into play whenever a person feels love for another. It is a reflection of the attraction that is inherent in man’s nature towards God, as if he is in search of something that he misses, the name of which he has forgotten and which he seeks to find in one thing or another which he takes up from time to time. A person’s love of wealth or offspring or wife or his soul being attracted towards a musical voice are all indications of his search for the True Beloved. As man cannot behold with his physical eyes the Imperceptible Being, Who is latent like the quality of fire in everyone, but is hidden, nor can he discover Him through the mere exercise of imperfect reason, he has been misled grievously in his search and has mistakenly assigned His position to others. The Holy Quran has, in this context, set forth an excellent illustration, to the effect that the world is like a palace, the floor of which is paved with smooth slabs of glass, under which flows a rapid current of water. Every eye that beholds this floor mistakenly imagines it to be running water. A person fears to tread upon the floor as he would be afraid of treading upon running water, though in reality the floor is only paved with smooth transparent slabs of glass. Thus these heavenly bodies like the sun and the moon etc. Are the smooth and transparent slabs of glass under which a great power is in operation like a fast flowing current of water. It is a great mistake on the part of those who worship these heavenly bodies that they attribute to them that which is manifested by the power that operates behind them. This is the interpretation of the verse of the Holy Quran:
It is a great hall paved with smooth slabs of glass. (27:45)
In short, as the Being of God Almighty, despite its brilliance, is utterly hidden, this physical system that is spread out before our eyes is not alone sufficient for its recognition. That is why those who have depended upon this system and have observed carefully its perfect and complete orderliness together with all the wonders comprehended in it, and have thoroughly studied astronomy, physics, and philosophy, and have, as it were, penetrated into the heavens and the earth, have yet not been delivered from the darkness of doubts and suspicions. Many of them become involved in grave errors and wander far away in pursuit of their stupid fancies. Their utmost conjecture is that this grand system which displays great wisdom must have a Maker, but this conjecture is incomplete and this insight is defective. The affirmation that this system must have a creator does not amount to a positive affirmation that He does in truth exist. Such a conjecture cannot bestow satisfaction upon the heart, nor remove all doubt from it. Nor is it a draught which can quench the thirst for complete understanding which man’s nature demands. Indeed, this defective understanding is most dangerous, for despite all its noise it amounts to nothing.
In short, unless God Almighty affirms His existence through His Word. As He has manifested it through His work, the observation of the work alone does not afford complete satisfaction. For instance, if we are Confronted by a room the door of which is bolted from inside, our immediate reaction would be that there is someone inside the room who has bolted the door from inside, inasmuch as it is apparently impossible to bolt a door from inside by some device employed for the purpose from the outside. But if, despite persistent calls from the outside over a period of years, no response becomes audible from inside, our supposition that there must be someone inside would have to be abandoned and we would be compelled to conclude that the door has been bolted from inside through some clever device. This is the situation in which those philosophers have placed themselves whose understanding is limited solely to the observation of the work of God.
It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse interred in the earth whose recovery is the business of man. If God has only been discovered through human effort, it is vain to expect anything from Him. Indeed, God has, through eternity, called mankind to Himself by affirming: I am present. It would be a great impertinence to imagine that man has laid God under an obligation by discovering Him through his own effort, and that if there had been no philosophers He would have continued unknown.
It is equally stupid to enquire how can God speak unless He has a tongue to speak with ? The answer is: Has He not created the earth and the heavenly bodies without physical hands ? Does He not view the universe without eyes? Does He not hear our supplications without physical ears ? Then is it not necessary that He should also speak to us?
Nor is it correct to say that God spoke in the past but does not speak now. We cannot limit His Word or His discourse to any particular time. He is as ready today to enrich His seekers from the fountain of revelation as He was at any time, and the gates of His grace are as wide open today as they were at any time. It is true, however, that as the need for a perfect law has been fulfilled all law and limitations have been completed. Also all prophethoods, having arrived at their climax in the person of our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, have been fulfilled.
The Reason for the Appearance of the Holy Prophet in Arabia
That the last Divine guidance should shine forth from Arabia was determined by Divine wisdom. The Arabs are descended from Ishmael who was cut asunder from Israel and had, under Divine wisdom, been cast into the wilderness of Paran (Faran), which means two fugitives. The descendants of Ishmael had been cut asunder from Bani Israel by Abraham himself and they had no part in the law of the Torah, as was written that they would not inherit from Isaac.
Thus they were abandoned by those to whom they belonged and had no relationship with anyone else. In all other countries there were some traces of worship and commandments which indicated that they had at one time received instruction from prophets. Arabia alone was a country that was utterly unacquainted with such teachings and was the most backward of all. Its turn came last of all and it received the benefit of a universal prophethood, so that all countries might share again in the blessings of prophethood, and the errors that had become current in the meantime among them might be weeded out. The Holy Quran is the Perfect Book which undertook the entire project of human reform and is not addressed only to one people. It seeks the reform of all and has set forth all grades of human development. It teaches savages the manners and ways of humanity and thereafter instructs them in high moral qualities. Thus there is no need of any other book beside the Holy Quran.
What the World Owes to the Holy Quran
It is a bounty of the Holy Quran upon mankind that it has set forth the distinction between man’s natural State and moral qualities. And that it does not stop merely at leading man from his natural conditions to the elevated palace of high moral qualities? But also opens the doors of the holy understanding that leads man to the spiritual heights. In this way it sets forth in an excellent manner the three types of teaching that we have already mentioned. As it comprehends all the teachings which are necessary for religious training, it claims it has discharged this function to perfection. It says:
This day have I perfected your religion for your benefit, and have completed My favour unto you and have been pleased to appoint Islam as your religion. ( 5:4)
This means the climax of religion has been reached in Islam. Which is that a person should be committed wholly to God and should seek his salvation through the Sacrifice of his self in the cause of God, and not through any other means, and should demonstrate this motive and determination in his conduct. This is the stage at which all excellences arrive at their perfection.
Thus, The Holy Quran has presented the God Who was not identified by the philosophers. The Quran has adopted two methods for the understanding of God. First, the method whereby human reason is strengthened and illumined for the purpose of setting forth reasons in support of the existence of God, and thus saves a person from falling into error. Secondly, the spiritual method which we shall set forth in answer to the third question.
Proof of the Existence of God
We now proceed to draw attention to the excellent and matchless proofs of the existence of God that the Holy Quran has set forth. At one place it has said:
Our Lord is He Who has bestowed upon everything its appropriate faculties, and has then guided it to the achievement of its appropriate purposes. (20:51)
If we keep in mind the purport of this verse and then reflect upon the shape and form of man and all the animals on land and in the sea, and the birds, we are impressed with the power of God Who has bestowed its appropriate form on everything. This is a vast subject and we would urge our listeners to reflect deeply upon it.
The second proof of the existence of God that the Holy Quran has set forth is that God is the ultimate cause of all causes, as it is said:
Thy Lord is the final cause of all causes. (53:43)
If we observe carefully we find that the entire universe is bound together in a system of cause and effect. This system is at the root of all knowledge. No part of creation is outside this system. Some things are the roots of others and some are branches. A cause may be primary or may be the effect of another cause, and that in its turn may be the effect of still another cause, and so on. Now, it is not possible that in this finite world this pattern of cause and effect should have no limit and should be infinite. We are compelled to acknowledge that it must terminate with some ultimate cause. The ultimate cause is God.
This verse sets forth this argument very concisely and affirms that the system of cause and effect terminates in God. Another proof of Divine existence set forth in the Quran is:
This means that the sun cannot catch up with the moon, and the night, which is a manifestation of the moon, cannot prevail over the day, which is a manifestation of the sun. Neither of them can move outside its orbit. (36:41)
Were there not a Regulator of the whole of this system behind the scenes, the system would fall into chaos. This proof is very striking in the estimation of astronomers. There are so many grand heavenly bodies that are gliding through space that the slightest disorder in their movements would bring about the ruin of the whole world. What a manifestation of Divine power is it that these bodies neither collide nor change their speed, nor alter their courses in the slightest degree, nor have they been worn out by their circulation during such a long period, nor has their machinery suffered any disorder. If they are not under the supervision of a Guardian, how is it that such a grand organisation continues to carry on through numberless years entirely on its own ?
At another place in the Quran God Almighty draws attention to this in the words:
Can there be a doubt in the existence of God Who has originated the heavens and the earth? (14:11)
He has set forth another proof of His existence in the words:
All that is on the earth will perish and only the countenance of thy Lord, Master of Glory and Honour, will survive. (55:27-28)
If we assume that the earth might be reduced into particles and the heavenly bodies might be broken down and everything might be overtaken by a blast that would wipe out every sign of these bodies, yet reason acknowledges and right conscience deems it necessary that after all this destruction there should survive One, Who is not subject to destruction, and can undergo no change and Who should continue in His pristine state. That One is God, Who has created everything mortal and is Himself immune from mortality.
Another proof of His existence that God has set forth in the Holy Quran is:
God enquired from the souls: Am I not your Lord ? and they answered: Indeed. (7:173)
In this verse God Almighty sets forth, in the form of question and answer, the characteristic with which He has invested the souls, and that is that by its very nature no soul can deny the existence of God. Those who deny God do so because they can find no proof of His existence according to their own fancy. Yet they acknowledge that for everything that is created there must be a creator. There is no one in the world so stupid that if he falls ill he would insist that there is no cause for his illness. If the system of the universe had not been made up of cause and effect, it would not have been possible to predict the time of a tornado, or of the eclipse of the sun or the moon, or that a patient would die at a certain time, or that a disease would be reinforced by another disease at a certain stage.
Thus, a research scholar who does not acknowledge the existence of God, in effect does so indirectly, for he too, like us, searches for the causes of effects. This is an acknowledgement of a sort, though it is not perfect. Besides, if, through some device, a person who denies the existence of God could be made unconscious in such manner that he should pass under the complete control of God, discarding all fancies, emotions, and impulses of his earthly life, he would in such a state acknowledge the existence of God and would not deny it. This is testified to by eminent experts. The verse that we have cited also indicates that a denial of the existence of God is only a manifestation of this earthly existence, for the true nature of man fully confesses His existence.
Attributes of God
We have set forth these few proofs of the existence of God by way of illustration. We now call attention to the attributes of God to Whom the Holy Quran calls us, which are as follows:
This means that God is One without associate and no one else beside Him is worthy of worship and obedience. (59:23)
This affirmation is made because, if He were not without associate, there might be an apprehension that He might be overcome by a rival, in which case Godhead would always be in peril.
The affirmation that no one is worthy of worship beside Him means that He is so perfect and His attributes are so excellent and exalted that if we were to select a god out of the universe who would be equipped with perfect attributes, or were to contemplate in our minds the best and most exalted attributes that God should possess, He would be more exalted than all our fancies. Whom no one can exceed and than Whom no one can be more exalted.
That is God, to associate anyone in Whose worship would be the greatest wrong. He is the Knower of the unseen, that is to say, He alone knows Himself. No one can comprehend His Being. We can comprehend the sun and the moon in their entirety, but we cannot comprehend God in His entirety. He is the Knower of the seen, that is to say, nothing is hidden from Him. It is not to be imagined that He should be unaware of anything. He has every particle of the universe within His sight; but man does not possess such comprehensive vision. He knows when He might break up this system and bring about the Judgement. No one else knows when that would happen. It is God alone Who has knowledge of all those times.
Then it is said:
He is the Gracious One
This means that before the coming into being of animates and before any action proceeding from them, out of His pure grace and not for any other purpose, nor as a reward for any action, He makes due provision for everyone; as for instance He brought into being the sun and the earth and all other things for our benefit before we came into being and before any action had proceeded from us. This Divine bounty is designated Rahmaniyyat in the Book of God, and on account of it God Almighty is called Rahman. He rewards righteous action richly and does not let go waste anyone's effort. On account of this attribute He is called Rahim, and the attribute is designated Rahimiyyat.
Then it is said:
He is Master of the Day of Judgement. (1:4)
This means that He keeps the recompense of everyone in His own hand. He has appointed no agent to whom He has committed the governance of the heavens and the earth, having withdrawn from it altogether, being no longer concerned with it, leaving to the agent the determination of all recompense at all times.
Then it is said:
He is the Sovereign without any default. (59:24)
It is obvious that human sovereignty is not without default. For instance, if all the subjects of an earthly sovereign were to leave their country and to migrate to another country, his sovereignty would come to an end. Or if all his people were afflicted with famine, how could any revenue be collected? Or if the people were to enquire from him what is it that he possesses beyond that which they possess on account of which they should obey him. What could he say in answer to their question ? But God's sovereignty is not Subject to any default. He can destroy everything in one instant and can create another kingdom. Had He not been such a Creator, possessing all power, His kingdom would not have endured without injustice. For instance. Having forgiven and having bestowed salvation upon the people of the world once, how would He have acquired another world? Would He have sought to catch those upon whom He had already bestowed salvation so that He might send them back into the World, and would have revoked His forgiveness and salvation unjustly? In such case His Godhead would have proved defective and He would have become an imperfect ruler like earthly sovereigns who frame ever new laws for their people and are put out of temper time after time; and when they find in their selfishness, that they cannot carry on without injustice, they have recourse to it without compunction.
For instance, in terrestrial sovereignty it is considered permissible to let the passengers of a small vessel be destroyed in order to secure the safety of a large vessel, but God is under no such compulsion. If God had not been All-Powerful and had not the power to create out of nothing, He would have been compelled either to have recourse to injustice like weak sovereigns, or would have clung to Justice and lost His Godhead. God's vessel continues its voyage with full power on the basis of justice.
Then He is the Source of Peace, that is to say, He is safeguarded against all defects, and misfortunes and hardships, and provides security for all. If He had been liable to being afflicted with misfortunes, or to be killed by His people, or could have been frustrated in His designs, how could the hearts of people in Such cases have been comforted by the conviction that he would deliver them from misfortunes?
God Almighty describes the condition of false gods in the following words:
Those on whom you call beside God cannot create even a fly, though they should all combine together for the purpose; and if a fly should snatch away anything from them. They cannot recover it therefrom. Their worshippers lack intelligence and they themselves lack power. Can such as these be gods? God is One Who is more powerful than all those who possess power. He is the Mighty, Who is supreme over all. No one can apprehend Him or kill Him. Those who fall into such errors have not a true concept of God's attributes. (22:74-75)
Then God is the Bestower of Security and sets forth proof of His attributes and His Unity. This is an indication that he who believes in the True God is not embarrassed in any company, nor would he be remorseful in the presence of God, for he is equipped with strong proofs. But he who believes in a false god finds himself in great distress. He describes every senseless thing as a mystery so that he should not be laughed at and seeks to hide demonstrable errors. Then He is the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. This means that He safeguards all and is supreme over all and sets right all that might have gone wrong and is completely Self-Sufficient.
He is God, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him. He is the Mighty, the Wise. (59:25)
This means that He is the Creator of the bodies as well as of the souls. He determines the features of a baby in the womb. To Him belong all the beautiful names that can be thought of. The dwellers of the heaven and the dwellers of the earth glorify Him. This is an indication that the heavenly bodies are also populated and their dwellers follow Divine guidance.
He has the power to do all that He wills. (2:21)
This provides great comfort for His worshippers, for what can be expected of a god who is weak and without power? Then it is said:
He is the Lord of the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. (1:2-4)
This means that He provides for the universe and is Himself the Master of the Day of Judgement and has not committed Judgement to anyone else.
Then it is said:
I respond to the call of him who calls on Me. (2:187)
the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting, and the Self-Sufficient. (2:256)
The life of every life, and the support of every being. He is the Ever-Living, for if He were not Ever-Living, His worshippers would be apprehensive lest He should die before them.
Then it is said:
Proclaim: He is God, the Single. He begets not, nor is He begotten; and there is no one who is His equal or like unto Him. (112:2-5)
To believe in the Unity of God correctly, without the least deviation, is the justice that is due from a mall towards his Maker. We have set out the moral teachings of Islam from the Holy Quran, the basic principle of which is that there should be neither excess net deficiency; it is the characteristic of a metal quality that it does not exceed or fall short of its appropriate limit. It is obvious that virtue lies in the middle of two extremes Only that habit which seeks to establish itself he the middle promotes a high moral quality. To recognise the proper place and occasion is itself a middle For instance, if a farmer does his sowing too early or too late, he departs from the middle. Virtue and truth and wisdom are the middle and the middle is appropriateness; in other words truth is always in the middle of two opposing falsehoods. There is no doubt that watchfulness for the proper occasion keeps a person in the middle. Keeping to the middle in relation to God means that in expounding Divine attributes one should not lean towards negating Divine attributes nor describe God as resembling material things. This is the way that the Holy Quran has adopted with reference to Divine attributes. It affirms that God sees, hearsay knows, speaks: and as a safeguard against His being understood as resembling His creation it also affirms:
There is nothing like unto Him. (42:12)
Fabricate not similitudes concerning God. (16:75)
This means that there is no partner in the Being and attributes of God and that He bears no resemblance to His creatures. To conceive of God as being between resemblance and transcendence is the proper middle. In short all Islamic teachings observe the middle. The Surah Fatiha also inculcates adherence to the middle. It teaches:
the supplication to be guided along the path of those on whom God has bestowed his favours, and not of those who have incurred His wrath, nor of those who have gone astray. (1:7)
By those who incurred His wrath are meant people who in juxtaposition to God yield to the wrathful faculty and act savagely and by those who have gone astray are meant people who behave like animals. The middle way is that which has been described as the way of those on whom God has bestowed His favours. In short, for this blessed people the Holy Quran has prescribed adherence to the middle. In the Torah God Almighty had laid emphasis on retribution, and in the Gospel He laid emphasis on forbearance and forgiveness. The Muslims have been directed to seek appropriateness and to adhere to the middle; as is said:
Thus have we made you the people of the middle. (2:144)
meaning that the Muslims have been directed to keep to the middle. Thus blessed are those who proceed along the middle. The middle is the best.
The third question is: What are spiritual conditions? We have already stated that according to the Holy Quran the fountainhead of spiritual conditions is the soul at rest, which carries a person from the grade of a moral being to the grade of a godly being, as God, the Glorious has said:
O soul that has found its rest in God, return to thy Lord, thou well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter among My chosen servants and enter My Garden. (89:28-31)
It should be remembered that the highest spiritual condition of a person he this life is that he should find comfort in God and all his Satisfaction, and ecstasy and delight should be centered in God. This is the Condition which is called the heavenly life. In this condition a person is bestowed the heavenly life he this very world in return for his perfect sincerity, purity and faithfulness. Other people look forward to paradise in the hereafter, but he enters it in this very life. Arriving at this stage a person realises that the worship that was prescribed for him is he truth the food that nurtures his soul, and on which his spiritual life largely depends, and that its consummation is not postponed to the after life. All the reproof that the reproving self administers to him on his unclean life and yet fails to rouse fully his longing for virtue and to generate real disgust against his evil desires, and to bestow full power of adherence to virtue, is transformed by this urge which is the beginning of the development of the soul at rest. On arriving at this stage a person becomes capable of achieving complete prosperity. All the passions of self begin to wither and a strengthening breeze begins to blow upon the soul so that the person Conceded looks upon his previous weaknesses with remorse. At that time nature and habits experience a complete transformation and the person is drawn far away from his previous condition. He is washed and cleansed and God inscribes love of virtue upon his heart and casts out from it the impurity of Vice with His own hand. The forces of truth all enter the citadel of his heart and righteousness occupies all the battlements of his nature and truth becomes victorious and falsehood lays down its arms and is put to flight. The hand of God is placed over his heart and he takes every step under the shade of God. God Almighty has indicated all this in the following Verses:
These are they he whose hearts God has inscribed faith with His Own hand and whom He has helped with the Holy Spirit. (58:23)
God has endeared faith to you and has made it to scorn fair to your hearts! And He has made you averse to disbelief, wickedness and disobedience and impressed upon your hearts the viciousness of evil ways. All this has come about through the grace and favour of God. God is All-Knowing Wise. (49:8-9)
Truth has arrived and falsehood has vanished, falsehood is bound to disappear. (17:82)
All this pertains to the spiritual condition which a person attains at the third stage. No One can acquire true height unless he arrives at this Condition. God's inscribing faith on their hearts with His Own hand and helping them with the Holy Spirit means that no one can achieve true purity and righteousness unless he receives heavenly help. At the stage of the reproving self a person's condition is that he repents time after time and yet falls down and often despairs and Considers his Condition beyond remedy. He remains in this situation for a period and when the appointed time comes a light descends upon him at night or during the day which possesses divine power. With the descent of that light he undergoes a wonderful Change and he perceives the control of a hidden hand, and beholds a Wonderful world. At that time he realises that trod exists and his eyes are filled with a light which they did not possess before.
How shall we discover that path and how shall we acquire that light ? Be it known that he this world every effect has a cause and behold every move there is a mover. For the acquisition of every type of knowledge there is appointed a way that is called the straight path. Nothing can be achieved in this world without conformity to the rules that nature has appointed in that behalf from the very beginning. The law of nature informs us that for the achievement of each purpose there is appointed a straight path and the purpose can be achieved only by following that path.
For instance, if we are sitting in a dark room, the straight path for obtaining the light of the sun is for us to open the window that faces the sun. When we do that. The light of the sun blatantly enters the room and illumines it. Thus it is obvious that for the acquisition of God's love and real glaze there must be some window, and there must be an appointed method for the acquisition of pure spirituality. Then we should see the straight pelts that leads to spirituality as we seek a straight path for the achievement of all our other purposes. That method is not that we should seek to meet God only through the exercise Or our reason and by following our self-appointed ways. The doors which can only be opened by His powerful hands will not yield to our logic and philosophy. We cannot find the Ever-Living and Self-Subsisting God through our own devices. The only straight path for the achievement of this purpose is that we should first devote our lives. Together with all our faculties, to the cause of God Almighty, and should then occupy ourselves with supplication for meeting Him, and should thus rind God through God himself.
An Excellent Prayer
The most excellent prayer which instructs us concerning the time and occasion of supplication arid depicts before us the picture of spiritual zeal is the one that God, the Beneficent, has taught us in the opening chapter of the Holy Quran. It is as follows:
All worthiness of praise belongs to God alone Who is the Creator and Sustainer of all the worlds. (1:2)
He provides for us out Or His mercy before any action proceeds from us, and after we have acted He rewards our action out of His mercy. (1:3)
He alone is the Master of the Day of Judgement and has not committed that day to anyone else. (1:4)
O Thou Who dost Comprehend all these attributes, we worship Thee alone and seek Thy help he all our affairs. (1:5)
The use of the plural pronoun in this context indicates that all our faculties are occupied in His worship and are prostrate at His threshold. Every person by virtue of his inner faculties is a multiple entity and the prostration of all his faculties before God is the condition that is called Islam.
Guide us along Thy straight path and establish us firmly on it. (1:6)
the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy bounties and favours, and not of those who have incurred Thy wrath, nor of those who went astray and did not reach Thee. (1:7) Amen.
These verses tell us that divine bounties and favours are bestowed only upon those who offer up their lives as a sacrifice in the cause of God, and devoting themselves wholly to it and being occupied entirely with His pleasure continue to supplicate so that they might be bestowed all the spiritual bounties that a human being can receive by way of nearness to God, meeting Him and hearing His words. With this supplication they worship God through all their faculties, eschew sin and remain prostrate at His threshold. They safeguard themselves against all vice and shun the ways of God's wrath. As they seek God with high resolve and perfect sincerity, they find Him and are given to drink their fill of their understanding of God.
The true and perfect grace that conveys a person to the spiritual world depends upon steadfastness, by which is meant that degree of sincerity and faithfulness which cannot be shaken by any trial. It means a strong relationship with the Divine which a sword cannot cut asunder and fire cannot consume, nor can any other calamity damage it. The death of dear ones or separation from them should not interfere with it, nor should fear of dishonour affect it, nor should a painful death move the heart away from it in the least degree. Thus this door is very narrow and this path is very hard. Alas how difficult it is! This is indicated by Almighty God in the following Verse:
Tell them: if your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your kinsfolk, and the wealth that you have acquired, and the trade the dullness of which you apprehend, and the dwellings that you fancy, are dearer to you than God and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until God declares His judgement. God guides not the disobedient people. (9:24)
This verse clearly shows that those people who put aside the will of God and give preference to their relatives and their properties whom they love better, are evil-doers in the estimation of God and that they would surely be ruined because they preferred something else to God. This is the third stage in which that person becomes godly, who welcomes thousands of calamities for the sake of God, and leans towards Him with such sincerity and devotion as if he has no one related to him except God, and all others have died. The truth is that till we submit ourselves to death we cannot behold the Living God. The day our physical life undergoes death is the day of the manifestation of God. We are blind till we become blind to the sight of all besides God. We are dead till we become like a corpse in the hand of God. It is only when we face God completely that we acquire the steadfastness that overcomes all passions of self, and that steadfastness brings about the death of the life that is devoted to selfish purposes.
This is described in the verse:
This means that God requires that we should offer ourselves to be sacrificed in His cause. (2:113)
We shall achieve Steadfastness when all our faculties and powers are devoted to His cause and our life and our death al-e all for His Sake, as He has said:
Proclaim. O Prophet: My prayer and my sacrifices and my living and my dying are all for the sake of God. (6:163)
When a person's love of God reaches a Stage at which his living and his dying is not for his own sake but is entirely for God. Then God. Who has always loved those who love Him, bestows His love upon him and by the meeting of these two loves a light is generated inside the person which the world cannot recognise or understand. Thousands of the righteous and the elect had to lay down their lives because the world did not recognise them. They were accounted Selfish and deceitful as the world could not see their bright countenances, as is said:
They look at thee. But they do not see thee. (7:199)
In short from the day when that light is generated in a person he ceases to be earthly and becomes heavenly. He Who is the Master of all beings speaks aside him and manifests the light of His Godhead and makes his heart, which is saturated with His love, His throne. As soon as such a one becomes a new person through His bright transformation, God becomes a new God for him and manifests new ways for him. It is not that God becomes another God, or that those ways are different from His ways, and yet they are distinct from His normal ways, of which worldly philosophy is not aware. He becomes one of those who are referred to in the verse:
Of the people there are those of high degree who dedicate themselves wholly to seeking the pleasure of God in return for their lives. These are the people towards whom God is Most Compassionate. (2 :208)
Thus he who arrives at the stage of spiritual life becomes wholly devoted to the cause of God.
In this verse God Almighty sets forth that only such a one is delivered from all suffering who sells his life in the cause of God in return for His pleasure and proves his devotion by laying down his life. He considers that he has been brought into being for obedience to his Creator and for service of his fellow beings. He performs all the virtues which are related to every one of his faculties with such eagerness and sincerity as if he beholds his True Beloved in the mirror of his obedience. His will is identified with the will of God and all his delight is cantered in his obedience to God. Righteous conduct proceeds from him not as labour but as delight and pleasure. This is the paradise that is bestowed upon a spiritual person in this very life. The paradise that will be bestowed in the hereafter would be a reflection of this paradise Which will, through Divine power, be manifested physically. This is referred to in the following verses:
For him who fears to stand before his Lord and is in awe of His Greatness and Majesty, there are two gardens, one in this world and the other in the hereafter. (55:47)
Those who are wholly devoted to God will be given a drink that will purify their hearts and their thoughts and their designs. (76:22)
The virtuous shall be given a drink which is tempered with camphor from a spring wherefrom the servants of God drink. They cause it to gush forth through their own efforts. (76:6-7)
The meaning of drinks prepared from camphor and ginger
We have already explained that the word Kafoor has been used in this verse for this reason that the Arabic word kafara means suppression and covering up. This is an indication that these people have quaffed the cup of cutting asunder from the world and turning to God with such Sincerity that their love of the world has become quite cold. It is well known that all passions originate in the heart and when the heart withdraws altogether from all undesirable fancies and never reverts to them at all, those passions begin to decline till they disappear altogether; that is what is conveyed in this verse, that is to say, that such people draw far away from the passions of self and incline so completely towards God that their hearts become cold to worldly pursuits and their passions are suppressed as camphor suppresses poisonous matter.
Then it is said:
They will be given to drink therein of a cup tempered with ginger. (76:18-19)
The Arabic word for ginger (Zanjabil) is a compound of zana and jabal. Zana in Arabic idiom means ascending and jabal means a mountain, thus Zanajabal means: He ascends the mountain. It should be remembered that after a person recovers from a poisonous disease he passes through two stages before he is restored to full health and strength. The first stage is when the poisonous matter is completely overcome and dangerous tendencies are reformed and poisonous conditions are safely averted and the attack of the fatal upsurge is completely suppressed, but the limbs are still weak, strength is lacking and the patient treads wearily. The second stage is when the patient is restored to full health and his body achieves full strength and he feels that he can climb hills and run along the heights. This condition is achieved in the third stage concerning which God Almighty has said that godly people of the highest rank drink of cups that are flavoured with ginger; that is to say, that arriving at the full strength of their spiritual condition they can climb high mountains; meaning that they carry out great projects and make great sacrifices in the cause of God.
The effect of ginger
It should be remembered that one of the qualities of ginger is that it strengthens the system and relieves dysentery and warms it up so that a person becomes capable, as it were, of climbing a mountain. By placing camphor and ginger in juxtaposition it is intended to convey that when a person moves from a condition of subordination to his passions towards virtue, the first reaction is that the poisonous matters from which he suffers are suppressed and the surge of passions begins to subside as camphor suppresses poisonous matters. That is why it is found useful in the treatment of cholera and typhoid. When poisonous matters are completely suppressed and the patient recovers his health to a degree in which he still feels weak, the second stage is that he derives strength from a drink flavoured with ginger. In spiritual terms this drink is the manifestation of divine beauty which is the nourishment of the soul. When he derives strength from this manifestation he is enabled to climb high mountains, that is to say, he performs such surprisingly difficult feats in the cause of God that no one whose heart is not inspired by the warmth of love can perform. In these verses God Almighty has employed two Arabic terms to illustrate these two conditions; one term is camphor which means suppression and the other is ginger which means climbing. These are the two conditions which are encountered by seekers after God.
We have prepared chains and collars and a blazing fire for the disbelieves. ( 76:5)
This means that for those who reject the truth and have no inclination towards accepting it, God has prepared chains and collars and a blazing fire. The meaning is that those who do not seek God with a true heart suffer a severe reaction. They are so much involved with the world as if their feet are secured by chains, and they bend down so much towards worldly pursuits as if there are collars round their necks which do not permit them to lift their eyes towards heaven. They have a burning desire for the things of the world, property, authority, domination, wealth, etc. As God Almighty finds them unworthy and committed to undesirable pursuits He inflicts them with these three sufferings. This is an indication that every human action is followed by a corresponding action on the part of God. For instance, when a person closes all the doors and windows of his room, his action is followed by a Divine action whereby the room becomes dark. All The inevitable consequences of our actions that have been appointed by God Almighty under the law of nature are all God's actions, inasmuch as He is the Cause of causes. For instance, if a person swallows poison, his action would be followed by the Divine action that he would suffer death. In the same way if a person acts in some improper way which attracts an infectious disease, his action would be followed by the Divine action that he would be afflicted with that disease. Thus as we observe clearly that in our worldly life there is an inevitable result for every action of ours, and that result is the act of God Almighty, the same law operates in religious matters also.
For instance, it is said:
This means that in consequence of the full striving of a person in seeking God, the inevitable act of God is to guide him along the ways that lead to Him. ( 29:70)
As a contrast it is said:
When they deviated from the right course and did not desire to tread along the straight path, the Divine action followed in that their hearts were made perverse. (61:6)
To illustrate this even more clearly it is said:
He who remains blind in this life win be blind in the hereafter also, and even more astray. (17:73)
This is an indication that the virtuous see God in this very life and they behold their True Beloved in this world. The purport of this verse is that the foundation of the heavenly life is laid in this very world and that the root of hellish blindness is also the vile and blind life of this world.
Then it is said:
Give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that for them there are gardens beneath which rivers flow. (2:26)
In this verse God Almighty has described faith as a garden beneath which rivers flow, and has thus indicated that faith is related to righteous action as a garden is related to the water of the river or stream. As a garden cannot flourish without water, faith cannot Survive without righteous action. If there is faith but no righteous action the faith is vain; and if there are actions but not faith, the actions arc mere show or display. The reality of the Islamic paradise is that it is a reflection of the faith and actions of a person in this life and is not something that will be bestowed upon a person from outside A person s paradise is developed aside him and everyone’s paradise is his faith and his righteous actions, the delight of which begins to be tasted in this very life and one perceives the hidden gardens and Streams of faith and righteous action which will become concretely manifest in the hereafter. God's holy teaching instructs us that pure and perfect and firm faith in God, His attributes and His designs, is a beautiful garden of fruit trees, and righteous actions are the streams that irrigate the garden. The Holy Quran says:
This means that a word of faith which is free from every extreme and defect and falsehood and vanity and is perfect in every Was is like a tree which is free from every defect, the root of which is firm he the earth and its branches spread into heaven. It brings forth its fruit at all times and at no time are its branches without fruit. (14:25-26)
Thus it will be seen that God Almighty has described a word of faith as a tree that bears fruit at all times and has set forth three of its characteristics.
The first is that its root, that is to say, its true meaning should be firm he the earth, meaning that its truth and reality should be acceptable to human nature and conscience.
Its second characteristic is that its branches should spread out into heaven, meaning that it should be supported by reason and should be in accord with the heavenly law of nature which is the work of God. In other words the law of nature should furnish arguments be support of its correctness and truth, and those arguments should be beyond the reach of criticism.
Its third characteristic should be that its fruit should be permanent and unlimited that is to say, the blessings and effects of acting upon it should Continue to be manifested at all times and should not cease to be manifested after a period.
Then it is said:
The case of an evil word is like that of an evil tree, which is uprooted from the earth and has no stability. (14:27)
meaning that human nature rejects it and it cannot be established by reason, or the law of nature or human conscience. It has no more stability than an idle tale. As the Holy Quran has said that the trees of true faith will appear in the hereafter as grapes and pomegranates and other good fruits, he the same way the evil tree of faithlessness is called Zaqqum, as is said:
Are the gardens of paradise better entertainment or the tree Zaqqum which we have made a means of trial for the wrongdoers? It is a tree that springs forth from the root of hell, that is to say, it grows out of arrogance and self-esteem. Its fruit Is as if it were the heads of Satan, meaning that he who eats it would be ruined. (37:63-66)
Then it is said:
The tree of Zaqqum is the food of the deliberately sinful. It will boil in their bellies like molten copper. (44:44-47)
The sinful one will be commanded:
Now suffer this, thou who didst hold thyself mighty and noble. (44:51)
This is a wrathful expression meaning that if he had not been arrogant and had not turned away from the truth out of pride and a false notion of his dignity. He would not have had to suffer in this fashion. This verse indicates that the word Zaqqum is compounded of Zuq, meaning taste it and am which is formed by the first and last letters of the remaining portion of the verse.
Thus God Almighty has described the words of faith uttered he this life as the trees of paradise. In the same way He has described the words of faithlessness uttered in this life as the tree of hell which He has called Zaqqum. And has thus indicated that the root of paradise and of hell is laid he this very life.
At another place hell is described as: (meaning that)
hell is a fire the source of which is the wrath of God and which is kindled by sin and overcomes the heart. (104:7-8)
This is an indication that at the root of this fire are the sorrows and griefs and torments which afflict the heart. All spiritual torments arise in the heart and then envelop the whole body.
At another place it is Said : (meaning that)
the fuel of the fire of hell which keeps it blazing is of two types. One, those men who turn away from God and worship other things, or who require their own worship;
as is said: (meaning that)
false deities and their worshippers will all be thrown into hell.
The second type of fuel of hell are the idols.
If there had Been no false gods and no idols nor any worshippers of these, there would Have been no hell. (2:25; 21:99)
All these verses show that he the Holy word of God heaven and hell are not like the physical world. Their source is spiritual, though it is true that in the hereafter they will take on concrete forms and yet will not belong to this world.
Means of Establishing Perfect Spiritual Relationship with God
The method of establishing perfect spiritual relationship with God that the Holy Quran teaches us is Islam, meaning devoting one’s whole life to the cause of God and being occupied with the supplications which we have been taught in Surah Fatiha. This is the essence of Islam. Complete surrender to God and the supplications taught in Surah Fatiha are only methods of meeting God and drinking the water of true salvation. This is the only that the law of nature has appointed for man’s highest exaltation and for his meeting the Divine. Those alone find God who enter into spiritual fire of Islam and continue occupied with the supplication set out in the Surah Fatiha. Islam is the blazing fire that burns up our life and consuming our false deities presents the sacrifice of our life and our property and our honour to our Holy God. Entering it we drink the water of a new life and all our spiritual faculties establish such a relationship with God as subsists between kindred. A fire leaps up from our inside like lightning and another fire descends upon us from above. By the meeting of these two flames all our passions and out love for anything beside God are totally consumed and we become dead vis-à-vis our previous life. This condition is named Islam in the Holy Quran.
Through our complete surrender to the will of God our passions are killed, and through supplications we acquire new life. This life is signalised by the receipt of revelation. Arriving at this stage is interpreted as meeting with God, in other words beholding God. At this stage a person establishes a relationship with God by virtue of which he becomes as if he were beholding of God, and he is invested with power and all his senses and his inner faculties are illumined and he feels the strong pull of a holy life. At this stage God becomes his eye with which he sees, and becomes his tongue with which he speaks, and becomes his hand which he assaults his enemy, and becomes his ear with which he hears, and becomes his feet with which he walks.
This stage is referred to in the verse:
God’s hand is above their hands. (48:11)
In the same way it is said:
It was not thou who didst throw, but it was God Who threw. (8:18)
In short at this stage there is perfect union with God and His holy will pervades the soul thoroughly, and the moral power that had previously been weak becomes firm like a mountain and reason and intelligence are sharpened to the extreme. This is the meaning of the verse:
He has strengthened them with His spirit. (58:23)
At this stage the streams of love for and devotion to Him surge up he such manner that to die he the Cause of God and to endure thousands of torments for His Sake and to become disgraced he His path. Become as easy as breaking a small straw. One is pulled towards God without knowing who is pulling. One is carried about by a hidden hand, and to do God s will becomes the purpose of one s life. At this stage God appeals very Close as He has said:
We are closer to him than his jugular vein. (50:17)
In that Condition the lower relationships of a person fall away from him. As ripe fruit falls away automatically from the branch of a tree. His relationships with God deepens and he draws far away from all creation and is honoured with the word and Converse of God. The doors of access to this stage are as wide open today as they were at any time, and Divine grace still bestows this bounty upon those who seek it as He did before. But this is not achieved by the mere exercise of the tongue. And this door is not opened by vain talk and boasts. There are many who Seek but there are few who find. Why is that so ? it is because this stage demands true earnestness and true sacrifice. Mere words mean nothing he this context. To Step faithfully onto the fire from which other people run away is the first requirement of this path. Boasts avail nothing: what is needed is practical zeal and earnestness. In this context God, the Glorious, has said:
When My servants enquire from thee concerning Me, tell them I am close. I respond to the call of supplicant when he calls on Me. So should they seek Me through their supplications and have firm faith in Me, that they may be rightly guided. (2:187)
SECOND QUESTION What is the State of Man after Death
The state of man after death is not a new state, only his condition in this life is made manifest more clearly in the next life. Whatever is the true condition of a person with respect to his beliefs and actions, righteous or otherwise, in this life, it remains hidden inside him and its poison or its antidote affects his being covertly. In the life after death it will not be so; everything will manifest itself openly. One experiences a specimen of it in a dream. The prevailing condition of the body of the sleeper makes itself manifest in his dream. When he is heading towards high fever he is apt to see fire and flames in his dream and if he is sickening for influenza or a Severe cold he is apt to find himself floating about in water. Thus whatever the body is heading for becomes visible in a dream. So one can understand that the same is the way of God with regard to the afterlife.
As a dream transmutes our spiritual condition into a physical form, the same will happen in the next life. Our actions and their consequences will be manifested physically in the next life, and whatever we carry hidden within us from this life will all be displayed openly on our countenances in the next life. As a person observes diverse types of manifestations in his dreams but is not conscious that they are only manifestations, and deems them as realities, the same will happen in the next life. Through those manifestations God Will display a new power which is perfect. If we were not to call the conditions of the next life manifestations and were to say that they would be a new creation by Divine power, that would be perfectly correct.
God has said:
No virtuous one knows what bliss is kept hidden from him, as a reward for that which he used to do. (32:18)
Thus God has described all those bounties as hidden, the like of which is not to be found in this world. It is obvious that the bounties of this world are not hidden from us and we are familiar with milk, pomegranates and grapes etc. Which we eat here. This shows that the bounties of the next life are something else and have nothing in common with the bounties of this life, except the name. He who conceives of the conditions of paradise in the terms of the conditions of this life has not the least understanding of the Holy Quran.
In interpreting the verse that we have just Cited our lord and master, the Holy Prophet peace and blessings of God be upon him, has said that heaven and its bounties are such as no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard, nor have they been conceived by the mind of man; whereas we see the bounties of this world and hear of them and their thought also passes through our minds. Now when God and His Messenger describe them as something Strange, we would depart altogether from the Holy Quran if we were to imagine that in heaven we shall be given the same milk which is obtained in this life from cows and buffaloes, as if herds of milk cattle would be kept in heaven and there will be numerous beehives in the trees of heaven from which angels will procure honey and pour it into streams. Have these Concepts any relationship with the teaching that says that those bounties Have never been witnessed in this world, and that they illumine the souls and foster our understanding of God and provide spiritual nourishment ? They are described in physical terms but we are told that their source is the soul and its righteousness.
Let no one imagine that the verse of the Holy Quran Cited below indicates that the dwellers of paradise on observing these bounties will recognise them that they had been bestowed these bounties aforetime also. As God, the Glorious has said:
Give glad tidings to those who believe and work perfect righteousness that they will inherit Gardens beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with fruits therefrom, which they will have already tasted in the life of the world they will exclaim: This is what we were given before, because they will find that those fruits resemble the fruits which they have already tasted. (2:26)
It is not to be supposed from the wording of this verse that on beholding the bounties of paradise the dwellers of paradise will discover that they are the same bounties which had been bestowed upon them he their previous life.
This would be a great mistake and would be contrary to the true meaning of the verse. What God Almighty has said here is that those who believe and work righteousness build a paradise with their own hands the trees of which are their faith and the streams of which are that- righteous actions. In the hereafter also they will eat of the fruits of this paradise, only those fruits will be sweeter and more manifest. As they will have eaten those fruits spiritually in this world they will recognise them in the other world and will exclaim: These appear to be the same fruits that we have already eaten; and they will thud that those fruits resemble the fruits that they had cater before he this world. This verse clearly proclaims that those people who were nurtured in this life on the love of God will be given the same nurture in physical shape in the hereafter. As they will have tasted the delight of love already in this life and would be aware of it, their souls would recall the time when they used to remember their True Beloved in corners, in solitude and in the darkness of night and used to experience its delight.
In short. There is no mention he this verse of material food. If it should strike anyone that as the righteous would have been given this spiritual nourishment in their life in this world it could not be said that it was a bounty that no one had seen or heard of in the world nor had it been conceived by the mind of male the answer should be that there is here no contradiction. As this verse does not mean that the dwellers of paradise would be bestowed the bounties of this world. Whatever they arc bestowed by way of comprehension of the Divine are the bounties of the hereafter a specimen of which is given to them he advance to stimulate their eagerness.
It should be remembered that a godly person does not belong to the Worldly that is why the world hates him. He belongs to heaven and is bestowed heavenly bounties. A man of the world is given worldly bounties, and a man of heaven is bestowed heavenly bounties. Thus it is true that those bounties are hidden from the ears and hearts and eyes of the worldly; but he whose worldly life suffers death and who is given a drink of the spiritual cup which he will drink in a physical form in the hereafter, will then recall having partaken of it in his previous life. It is true however, that he will consider the eyes and ears of the world as unaware of it. As he was in the world though he was not of the world, he will also testify that the bounties of heaven are not of the world and that he did not see such a bounty in the world nor did his ear hear of it, nor did his mind conceive it. He saw a specimen of those bounties of the hereafter which were not of this world. They were a presage of the world to come to which he was related and had no connection with the life of this world.
Three Quranic insights concerning the Hereafter
It should be kept in mind that the Holy Quran has set forth three insights with regard to the conditions of the life after death which we now proceed to expound.
The Holy Quran has repeatedly affirmed that the life after death is not a new phenomenon and all its manifestations are reflections of this life. For instance, it is said:
Every person's doings have We fastened firmly to his neck; and on the Day of Judgement We shall make them manifest and shall place them before him in the form of a book which he will find wide open. (17:14)
In this verse the expression bird has been metaphorically employed for actions, because every action, good or bad, flies away like a bird as soon as it is performed and its labour or enjoyment comes to an end. Only its heavy or light impress is left on the heart.
The Quran sets forth the principle that every human action leaves its hidden impress upon its author and attracts an appropriate Divine reaction which preserves the evil or the virtue of that action. Its impress is inscribed on the heart and face and eyes and ears and hands and feet of its performer. This is the hidden record which will become manifest in the hereafter.
Concerning the dwellers of heaven it is said:
On that day thou will see the light of the believing men and the believing women, which is hidden in this world, running before them and on their right hands manifestly. (57:13)
At another place addressing the wrongdoers it is said:
The desire of increase in worldly possessions beguiles you till you reach the graves. Do not set your hearts upon the world. You will soon come to know the vanity of your pursuits; again, you will soon come to know how mistaken you are in pursuing the world. If you had possessed the certainty of knowledge you would surely see hell in this very life. But you will see it with the certainty of sight in your middle state (Barzakh), then you shall be called to account on the Day of Judgement and the torment will be imposed on you and you will know hell through your experience. (102:2-9)
Three types of Knowledge
In these verses God Almighty has dearly set forth that for the wicked the life of hell begins in a covert way in this very world, and if they would reflect they would observe hell in this very life. Here God Almighty has indicated three types of knowledge, namely knowledge by certainty of reason, knowledge by certainty of sight, and knowledge by certainty of experience. This might be illustrated thus. When a person perceives smoke from a distance his mind conceives that smoke and fire are inseparable, and therefore where there is smoke there must be fire also. This would be knowledge by the certainty of reason. Then on a nearer approach he sees the flames of the fire and that is knowledge by the certainty of sight. Should he enter into the fire, that would be knowledge by the certainty of experience. In these verses God Almighty says that knowledge of the existence of hell as a certainty can be acquired in this life through reason, its knowledge through the certainty of sight will be acquired in Barzakh. The intermediate state between death and judgement, and on the Day of Judgement that knowledge would become a certainty by experience.
It might be explained at this stage that according to the Holy Quran there are three states of existence.
The first is the world, which is called the first creation and is the state of effort. In this world man works good or evil. After resurrection the virtuous will continue their advance in goodness but that would be by the sheer grace of God and would not be the result of any effort of man.
The second is the intermediate state which is called barzukh. In Arabic idiom barzukh is Something which is situated between two other things. As that State will be between the first creation and the resurrection it is called barzukh. This expression has always been employed for the intermediate state. Thus it comprehends a great hidden testimony in support of the existence of the intermediate state I have established in my book Minanur Rahman that the words of Arabic have issued from the mouth of God and that this is the only language which is the language of the Most Holy God and is the most ancient tongue, and is the fountainhead of all types of knowledge, and is the mother of all languages. And is the first and last throne of Divine revelation. It is the first throne of Divine revelation because Arabic was the language of God that was with God since the beginning. Then that language came down to the world and people converted it into their respective languages. It is the last throne of Divine revelation, in as much as the last book of God, which is the Holy Quran, was revealed in Arabic.
Barzukh is an Arabic word which is compounded of Barra and Zakha, which means that the manner of earning through action has ended and has fallen into a hidden state. Barzukh is a state in which the mortal condition of man is dissolved and the soul and the body are separated. The body is buried in a pit and the soul also falls into a sort of pit which is indicated by the expression Zakha, because it is no longer able to earn good or evil which it could only do through its relationship with the body. It is obvious that the health of the soul is dependent upon the health of the body. An injury inflicted upon one part of a person s brain Causes loss of memory, and an injury occasioned to another part destroys the faculty of reflection and brings about unconsciousness. Similarly a Convulsion of the brain muscle or a swelling or a haemorrhage or morbidity may by causing obstructions lead to insensibility, epilepsy, or cerebral apoplexy.
Thus our experience teaches us definitely that the soul, divorced from the body, is utterly useless. It is entirely vain to imagine that our soul without its body can enjoy any kind of bliss. We might entertain such a fancy but reason lends it no support. We cannot conceive that our soul which is rendered helpless by minor upsets of the body could continue in a perfect condition when its relationship with the body comes to an end altogether. Does not our daily experience teach us that the health of the body is essential for the health of the soul? When one of us reaches xtreme old age his soul also falls into dotage. Its store of knowledge is stolen by old age as is said by God, the Glorious, that:
in old age a person arrives at a stage in which, after having acquired much knowledge he loses it all. (22:6)
All this observation of ours is proof enough that the soul without the body amounts to nothing.
This is reinforced by the thought that if the soul without the body had amounted to anything, it would have been without purpose for God Almighty to set up a relationship between it and a mortal body. Further it is worthy of note that God Almighty has created mall for limitless progress. Then if the soul is not able to achieve the progress possible in this brief life without the companionship of the body. How can we expect that it would be able, by itself, without the companionship of the body, achieve limitless progress in the hereafter
All this shows that according to Islamic principles, for the soul to act perfectly it is necessary for it to enjoy the Companionship of a body at all times. On death the soul departs from this mortal body, but in the intermediate state every soul is invested with a body in order to enable it to react to the conditions of that state. That body is not like this physical body, but is prepared from light or from darkness, according to the quality of the person’ s actions in this life. As if a man’s actions serve as a body for the soul in that state. In the Word of God it is repeatedly mentioned that some bodies will be bright and some will be dark. They will be prepared from the light or from the darkness of human actions. This is a fine mystery but is not opposed to reason. A perfect human being can enjoy an illumined body in this very life and there are many instances of this which are experienced in a state of vision. This may be difficult of comprehension by a person of average intelligence, but those who have some experience of the state of vision will not regard such a body as is prepared from human actions as a matter of surprise and improbability. But will duly appreciate this phenomenon.
In short this body which is acquired according to the condition of one s actions. Becomes a source of the recompense of good and evil in the intermediate state. I have experience of this. I have often had experience in a complete state of wakefulness of meeting some persons who had died. And I saw that the bodies of some evil-doers and misguided ones were so dark as it they had been made of smoke. In short, I am personally acquainted with these matters and I affirm emphatically that, as God Almighty has said, every one is invested with a body after death which is either bright or dark. It would be a mistake on the part of man to seek to establish these fine insights through the more exercise of reason. It should be realised that as the eye cannot discover the taste of something sweet, nor can the tongue behold anything, in the same way the knowledge of the life after death which can only be acquired through holy visions Cannot be explained fully on the basis of reason. God Almighty has appointed diverse means for acquiring knowledge in this world of that which is unknown. Therefore it is necessary to seek everything through its proper means. It is only then that it can be discovered.
Another matter that must be kept he mind is that in His Word God has described as dead those people who are involved in vice and error and has declared the virtuous as alive. The reason for this is that the functions of the lives of those who die in a State of neglect of God, for instance, eating and drinking and indulgence of their passions are cut off, and they have no share of spiritual sustenance. They are truly dead and will be revived only for punishment. As God, the Glorious, has said:
The portion of him who comes to his Lord a sinner is hell; he shall neither die therein nor live. (20:75)
But those whom God loves do not die with their physical death, for their sustenance is with them.
After Barzukh there is the state of resurrection. In that state every soul good or bad, righteous or disobedient, will be bestowed a visible body. That day has been appointed for the perfect manifestations of God, when every person will get to know the Being of his Lord fully, and everyone will arrive at the climax of his recompense. This should not be a matter for surprise for God has every power and does whatever He wills, as He has said:
Does not man know that we have created him from a mere sperm drop injected into the womb? Then he becomes a persistent disputer. He forgets the process of his own creation but has a lot to say concerning us. He asks: How shall a person be revived when even his bones have decayed? Who has the power to revive him? Tell them: He, Who created them the first time will revive them. He knows well every type of creation. (36:78-80)
His power is such that when He determines upon a thing He says concerning it: Be; and it is. Thus Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom over all things. To Him will you all be brought back. (36:82-84)
In these verses God, the Glorious, has set forth that nothing is beyond His power. Has He Who created man from a lowly drop not the power to create him a second time?
An ignorant person might object that as the third state, which is the state of resurrection, would arrive after a long period, the state of barzukh would only be a sort of lock-up for the good and the bad and this would be purposeless. The answer is that this is a misunderstanding which is due to lack of knowledge. In the Book of God there are two states mentioned for the recompense of the good and the bad, one of which is the state of barzukh in which everyone will receive his recompense in a Covert manner. The wicked would enter hell immediately on death and the virtuous will find comfort in heaven immediately after death. There are several verses he the Holy Quran to the effect that every person immediately on his death will encounter the recompense of his actions.
For instance, it is said concerning a righteous one:
His Lord said to him: Enter thou into paradise. (36:27)
and concerning a wicked one it is said:
This has reference to two friends one of whom was admitted to heaven and the other was Condemned to hell. The one who was admitted to heaven was anxious to find out where his friend was. He was shown that his friend was in the midst of hell. (37:56)
Thus reward and punishment start immediately and those condemned to hell go to hell, and those who are to be admitted to heaven go to heaven. But thereafter there is a day of grand manifestation which has been appointed out of the great wisdom of God. He Created man so that He should be recognised through His power of creation. Then He will destroy everything so that He might be recognised through His Supremacy over everything, and then He will gather everyone after bestowing perfect life on them so that He might be recognised through His Power.
The second insight concerning the life after death which the Holy Quran has set forth is that in the hereafter all the spiritual conditions of this world will be manifested physically, both in the intermediate state and in the resurrection. In this context one verse is:
He who Continues blind in this life will be blind in the hereafter and even more astray. (17:73)
This means that the spiritual blindness of this life will be manifested and felt physically in the hereafter.
In another verse it is said:
Seize this hellish one and put a collar round his neck and burn him in hell and bind him in a chain the length of which is seventy cubits. (69:31-33)
These verses show that the spiritual torment of this world will be manifested physically in the hereafter. For instance, the collar of worldly ambition which had bent his head towards the earth will become physically perceptible in the life after death. Similarly the chain of worldly preoccupation’s will become visible round his feet. And the fire of worldly desires will appear in full blaze.
A vicious person conceals a Whole hell of worldly greed and desires inside himself, and perceives the burning sensation of this hell at the thee of his failures and frustrations. So when he is cast away from his mortal desires and becomes subject to eternal despair, God Almighty will Cause his sorrow to be manifested physically he the shape of fire; as is said:
A barrier will be placed between them and that which they yearn after, and that will be the root of their torment. (34:55)
The chain of seventy cubits is an indication that a wicked one often attains the age of seventy years and sometimes, leaving aside his years of childhood and extreme old age, he is granted a period of seventy years which he could employ for work wisely and with good sense. But an unfortunate one spends these seventy years caught in the coil of worldly preoccupation’s and does not desire to be free of them. Thus God Almighty affirms in this verse that the seventy years that such a one spends in worldly pursuits will be manifested as a chain of seventy cubits in the hereafter, one cubit for each year. It must be kept in mind in this connection that God Almighty does not afflict any creature of His with a misfortune from Himself. He merely confronts a person with his own evil deeds.
At another place He has said:
O ye vile and errant ones, proceed towards a shelter which has three branches, neither affording shade, nor protecting from the blaze. (77:31-32)
The three branches mentioned here represent bestiality, savageness and wild imagination. In the case of those who do not regulate these faculties and thus convert them into moral qualities, they will manifest themselves in the hereafter as three branches of a tree which are bare of leaves and can afford no shade or protection against fire, so that such people would be consumed by the fire. As a contrast, God Almighty has said concerning the dwellers of heaven:
On that day thou wilt see the light of the believing men and believing women, which is kept hidden in this world, running before them and on their right hands. (57:13)
and in another verse it is said:
On that day some faces will be bright and others will be dark. (3:107)
A third verse sets out::
The Garden promised to the righteous is as if it has rivers of water that corrupts not; and rivers of milk of which the taste changes not; and rivers of wine, which do not inebriate, a delight for those who drink; and rivers of pure honey, which has no impurity. (47:16)
It is clearly stated here that heaven should be understood as metaphorically comprising inexhaustible streams of these bounties. This means that the Water of life which a person of spiritual understanding drinks in this life will be manifested visibly in the hereafter. The spiritual milk by which he is sustained like a suckling he this life will become physically visible in heaven. The wine of God's love which inebriated him all the time spiritually in this life, will be manifested in the shape of rivers in heaven. The honey of the sweetness of faith which a person possessing spiritual understanding swallowed spiritually in this world will be manifested and felt physically in heaven. Every dweller of heaven will proclaim his spiritual condition openly through his gardens and rivers. God will unveil Himself on that day for the dwellers of heaven. In short, spiritual conditions will not remain hidden in the hereafter but will be physically visible and perceptible.
The third insight concerning the hereafter is that there will be unlimited progress therein? As God Almighty has said:
The light of the believers will run before them and on their right hands. They will supplicate: Lord, perfect our light for us and cover us with Thy grace, Surely Thou hast power over all things. (66:9)
Their supplication that their light may be perfected is an indication of limitless progress. It means that when they have arrived at one stage of illumination, they will perceive a higher stage ahead of them and viewing it they will consider the stage in which they are as being inferior and will supplicate for the attainment of the higher stage, and when they arrive at that stage they will perceive a still higher third stage ahead of them and they will supplicate for its achievement. Thus their yearning for constant progress is indicated by the expression: Do Thou perfect our light. In short this shahs of progress will continue indefinitely. There will be no falling away, nor will they be expelled from heaven. But will daily advance further forward.
It may be asked that as they will have entered heaven and all their sins would have been forgiven then what further need would there be for supplicating for forgiveness: The answer is that the true meaning of maghfirat (seeking forgiveness), is to suppress and cover up an imperfect or defective condition. Thus the dwellers of heaven will Suck the attainment of perfection and their complete absorption in light. Observing a higher condition they will consider their condition defective and would desire its suppression, and then observing a still higher condition they would desire that their lower condition should be covered up and thus they will Continuously seek unlimited maghfirat. This seeking of maghfirat or istighfar is sometimes made the basis of adverse Criticism of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. I trust that now it will have become clear that the desire for maghfirat is a matter of pride for man. He who is born of woman and does not make istighfar his habit, is a worm and not man, he is blind and not seeing, he is unclean and not pure.
In short, according to the Holy Quran, hell and heaven are both reflections of a man’s life, and are not something new that comes from outside. It is true that in the hereafter they will be manifested physically, but they will be reflections of the spiritual conditions of man in this lift we do not conceive of heaven as containing material trees, nor of hell as full of brimstone and sulphur. According to Islamic teachings heaven and hell are the reflections of the actions that a person carries out in this world.
THIRD QUESTION The Object of Man's Life and The Means of its Attainment
Different people being short-sighted and lacking high resolve, appoint different purposes for their lives and limit themselves to worldly Shoals and ambitions. But the purpose that God Almighty has appointed thou man in His Holy Word is as follows:
I have created men and jinn so that they may know Me and worship Me. (51:57)
Thus the true purpose of man’s life is the worship of God, His understanding and complete devotion to Him.
It is obvious that man is not in a position to appoint the purpose of his own life, for he does not come into the world of his own accord, nor will he depart therefrom of his own will. He is a creature and the One Who created him and invested him with better and higher faculties than those of all other animals, has also appointed a purpose far his life. Whether anyone penetrates to it or not, the purpose of man s creation without a doubt is the worship and the understanding of God and complete devotion to Him.
At another place God Almighty has said in the Holy Quran:
The religion which provides true understanding of God and prescribes His true worship is Islam. (3 :20)
Islam is inherent in man’s nature and man has been created in accord with Islam. That is the everlasting faith. (30:30-31)
This means that God has desired that man should devote himself to His worship and obedience and love with all his faculties. That is why He has bestowed on mall all the faculties that are appropriate for Islam.
These verses have very wide meaning. A part of which we have set out in the third part of the answer to the first question. Here we wish to state briefly that the true purpose of the internal and external limbs and faculties that have been bestowed on man is the understanding of God and His worship and His love. That is why, despite occupying himself with diverse projects in this life, man does not find his true welfare except in God. Having had great wealth, having held high office, having become a great merchant, having ruled a great kingdom, having been known as a great philosopher, in the end he departs from all these involvements with great regret. His heart constantly rebukes him on his total preoccupation with worldly affairs and his conscience never approves his cunning and deceit and illicit activities.
An intelligent person can appreciate this problem in this way also, that the purpose of everything is to be determined by its highest performance beyond which its faculties cannot operate. For instance, the highest function of a bullock is ploughing or irrigation or transportation. Its faculties are not adapted to anything else. Therefore, the purpose of a bullock’s life are just these three things. It has no power to do anything else. But when we look into the faculties of man and try to discover what is their highest reach, we find that he seeks after God, the Exalted. He desires to become so devoted to God that he should keep nothing as his own and all that is his should become God’s. He shares with the other animals his natural urge towards eating, sleeping etc. In industry some animals are far ahead of him. Indeed the bees extracting the essence of different types of flowers produce such excellent honey that man has not yet been able to match them. It is obvious, therefore, that the highest reach of man’s faculties is to meet God, the Exalted. Thus the true purpose of his life is that the window of his heart should open towards God.
Means of the Attainment of Man's Purpose
It may be asked how can this purpose be achieved and through what means can a person find God ? The very first means of achieving this goal is to recognise God Almighty correctly and to believe in the True God. For if the very first step is not right, for instance, if a person believes in a bird, or an animal, or in the elements, or in the issue of a human being, as god, there can be no hope of his treading along the straight path in his further progress towards God. The True God helps His seekers, but how can a dead god help the dead ?
In this Context God the Glorious has set forth an excellent illustration:
Unto Him alone is the true prayer, as He has the power to do all things Those on whom they call beside Him, do not respond to them at all. Their Case is like that of one who Stretches forth his hand towards water that it may reach his mouth, but it reaches it not. The prayers of those who are unaware of the True God are but a delusion. (13:15)
The second means is to be informed of the perfect beauty of God Almighty; for the heart is naturally drawn to beauty, the observation of which generates love in the heart. God’s beauty is His Unity and His Greatness and His Majesty and His other attributes, as the Holy Quran has said:
God is One in His being and His attributes and His glory. He has no partner. All are dependent upon Him. He bestows life on every particle. He is the source of grace for everything and is not in need of grace from any. He is neither a son nor a father for He has no equal and no one is like unto Him. (112:2-6)
The Quran repeatedly draws attention to God’s greatness and grandeur and thus impresses upon the minds of men that only such a God can be the desired objective of the heart and not any dead or weak or pitiless or powerless being.
The third means of approach to God is knowledge of His beneficence, for beauty and beneficence are the two incentives of love. The beneficent attributes of God are summed up in Surah Fatiha as follows:
That is to say God creates His servants from nothing, out of perfect Beneficence and His Providence is available to them all the time. He is the support of everything and every type of His beneficence has been manifested for His creatures. (1:2-4)
His benevolence is without limit as He has said:
If you try to count the bounties of God you would not be able to number them. (14:35)
The fourth means of achieving the true purpose of life appointed by God Almighty is supplication, as He has said:
Call on Me, I shall respond to you. (40:61)
We are repeatedly urged to supplicate so that we should find God, not through our power but through God’s power.
The fifth means of achieving the purpose of life appointed by God Almighty, is striving in His cause; that is to say, we should seek God by spending our wealth in His cause and by employing all our faculties in furthering His cause, and by laying down our lives in His cause and by employing our reason in His cause; as He has said:
Strive in His way with your wealth and your lives and with all your faculties. ( 9:41)
Whatever We have bestowed upon you of intelligence and knowledge and understanding and art, employ it in Our cause. (2:4)
We surely guide along Our ways those who strive after us. (29:70)
The sixth means of achieving this purpose has been described as steadfastness, meaning that a seeker should not get tired or disheartened and should not be afraid of being tried, as God has said:
Upon those who affirm: God is our Lord, and turn away from false gods and are steadfast, that is to say, remain firm under trials and calamities, descend angels, reassuring them: Fear not nor grieve, and be filled with happiness; and rejoice that you have inherited the joy that you had been promised. We are your friends in this life and in the hereafter. (41:31-32)
These verses indicate that steadfastness wins the pleasure of God Almighty. It is true, as has been said, that steadfastness is more than a miracle. The perfection of steadfastness is that when one is encircled by calamities and life and honour and good name are all in peril in the cause of God, and no means of comfort are available, so much so, that even visions and dreams and revelation are suspended by God as a trial and one is left helpless among terrible dangers, at such a time one should not lose heart nor retreat like a coward nor let one’s faithfulness be put in doubt in the least. One should not let one’s sincerity and perseverance be weakened, one should be pleased with one’s disgrace; one should be reconciled to death; one should not wait for a friend to lend one his support in order to keep one firm; nor seek glad tidings from God because of the severity of the trial. One should stand straight and firm despite one’s helplessness and weakness and lack of comfort from any direction. Come what may one should present oneself for sacrifice and should be completely reconciled to divine decrees and one should exhibit no restlessness nor utter any complaint, right till the end of the trial.
This is the steadfastness which leads to God. This is that the perfume of which still reaches us from the dust of Messengers and Prophets and Faithful ones and Martyrs. This is also indicated in the supplication:
Guide us along the path of steadfastness the path that attracts Thy bounties and favours and by treading along which one wins Thy pleasure. (1:6-7)
Another verse also indicates the same:
Lord, send down on us steadfastness in this time of trial and Cause us to die in a state of submission to Thee. (7:127)
It should be realised that at a thee of misfortunes and hardships God Almighty causes a light to descend upon the hearts of those He loves, by being strengthened with which they face those misfortunes with great serenity and out of the Sweetness of faith they kiss the chains that fetter them. When a godly person is afflicted and the signs of death become manifest, he does not start a Contention with his Beneficent Lord that he might be delivered from that condition, inasmuch as to persist he a supplication for security in such a condition means fighting God’s decree and is inconsistent with complete submission.
A true lover goes further forward under misfortunes and, holding life as nothing at such a time, and saying goodbye to it, submits completely to the will of God and seeks only His pleasure. Concerning such people God Almighty has said:
He whom God loves offers his life in the cause of God in return for God’s pleasure. Such people win the compassion of God. (2:208)
This is the spirit of steadfastness through which one meets God. Let him who will understand.
The seventh means of achieving the purpose of life is to keep company with the righteous, and to observe their perfect example. One of the needs for the advent of prophets is that man naturally desires a perfect example, and such an example fosters zeal and promotes high resolve. He who does not follow an example becomes slothful and is led astray. This is indicated by God, the Glorious, in the verse:
Keep company with the righteous. (9:119)
and in the verse:
Guide us along the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours. (1:7)
that is to say, you should keep company with the righteous and learn the ways of those who have been the recipients of grace before you.
The eighth means of achieving the purpose of life are visions and true dreams and revelation. As the path that leads to God Almighty is a difficult one and is studded with misfortunes and hardships and it is possible that a person might go astray while treading along this unfamiliar path and might begin to despair and stop going forward, the mercy of God desires to keep comforting him and encouraging him and augmenting his zeal and eagerness. So it is His way that from time to time He comforts such people with His Word and His revelation and makes it manifest to them that He is with them. Thus they are strengthened and go forward eagerly on this journey. He has said:
For them there are glad tidings in this life and in the hereafter. (10:65)
The Holy Quran has set forth several other means for the achievement of the purpose of life, but we refrain from setting them down here out of Consideration of time.
FOURTH QUESTION The Operation of the Practical Ordinances of the Law in this Life and the Next
We have already stated that the effect of the true and perfect Divine law upon man's heart in this life is that it lifts him from a savage Condition and converts him into a human being, and thereafter invests him with high morals, and finally makes him godly. One of the effects of the practical ordinances of the law is that a person who follows the true law progressively recognises the rights of his fellow beings and exercises his faculties of equity, and benevolence and true sympathy, on their proper occasions. Such a one shares with his fellow beings, according to their respective ranks, the bounties with which God has favoured him, like knowledge, understanding, wealth and means of comfort. He sheds his light like the sun upon the whole of mankind, and like the moon, acquiring light from God conveys it to others. Being illumined like the day he shows the paths of virtue and goodness to others, and like the night he covers up their weaknesses and provides comfort for those who are weary. Like the sky he provides shelter under his shade for everyone who is in need, and pours down the rain of grace at its proper time. Like the earth, out of utter humility. He becomes like a floor for everyone's comfort and gathers them close to afford them security, and offers them diverse types of spiritual fruits. Thus, he who adheres to the perfect law discharges his obligations to God and to his fellow creatures to the utmost. He loses himself in God and becomes a true servant of His creatures. This is the effect of the practical ordinances of the law on his life here.
Their effect in the hereafter is that a person who adheres to them will observe his spiritual relationship with God as a manifest reality. The service that he rendered to God's creatures out of his love for Gods which was stimulated by his faith, and his yearning for righteous action, will be manifested to him as the trees and rivers of paradise.
In this context God Almighty has said: We call to witness the sun and its light; and We call to witness the moon when it follows the sun and obtains its light from it and conveys it to people; and We call to witness the day when it manifests the light of the sun and shows up the paths; and We call to witness the night when it darkens and envelops everything within itself; and We call to witness the heaven and the purpose for which it has been created; and We call to witness the earth and the purpose for which it has been spread out like a floor; and We call to witness the human soul and its quality which makes it equal to all these other things; that is to say all those qualities which are found dispersed among the other bodies that have been mentioned are all comprehended in the soul of the perfect man. As these bodies serve man in diverse ways, the perfect man performs all that service by himself. Then He says: That one will be delivered from death and will attain salvation who purifies his soul, that is to say, who serves God's creatures out of his devotion to God like the sun and the moon and the earth.
It should be kept in mind that in this context life means life eternal, which will be bestowed upon perfect man. This is an indication that the fruit of conforming to the practical ordinances of the law will be the eternal life of the next world, which will be sustained for ever by the vision of God. Then it is said that he who corrupts his soul and does not acquire the qualities for which he was bestowed appropriate capacities and goes back after spending an unclean life, shall be ruined and shall despair of life eternal.
This is illustrated by the event of the she-camel of God, which was hamstrung by a wretched one of the tribe of Thamud and was prevented from drinking at its fountain. This is an indication that the soul of man is the she-camel of God which He bestrides, meaning that the heart of man is the place of Divine manifestations. The water of the she-camel is the love and understanding of God which sustain it. When the Thamud hamstrung the she-camel of God and prevented it from having its drink they were overtaken by God's chastisement and He cared not how their dependants would fare. Thus would be ruined one who corrupts his soul and prevents it from taking spiritual nourishment and does not desire to foster it (91:2-16).
The Philosophy of the Oaths of the Holy Quran
There is a deep philosophy in God’s calling the sun and the moon etc. To witness. Some of our opponents, out of their lack of knowledge, criticise God for calling to witness created things. As their intelligence is earthly and not heavenly they fail to appreciate true insights. The purpose of taking an oath is that the one who takes an oath puts forward a testimony in support of his claim. A person who has no witness of his claim calls God to witness, for He knows what is hidden and He is the foremost witness in every controversy. Such a person puts forward the testimony of God by taking an oath in His name, meaning thereby that if God does not thereafter chastise him, that would be proof that God has confirmed the truth of his claim.
It is, therefore, not permissible for a person to take the oath of any created thing, for no created thing possesses knowledge of the unseen, nor has it the power to punish one who takes a false oath. In these verses God calling various phenomena to witness is not the same thing as a person taking an oath. Divine manifestations are of two types. One, those that are obvious and concerning which there is no controversy. Secondly, there are those Divine manifestations which are inferential concerning which people differ and can fall into error. By calling to witness the obvious phenomena God Almighty’s purpose is to establish by their evidence His inferential manifestations. It is obvious that the sun and the moon and the day and the night and the heaven and the earth, possess the respective characteristics that we have mentioned, but everyone is not aware of the characteristics possessed by the human soul. Thus, God has set forth His obvious manifestations as witnesses for the purpose of explaining His inferential manifestations. It is as if He says: if you are in doubt with regard to the qualities with which the human soul is invested, then reflect upon the sun and the moon and the other phenomena cited which obviously possess these qualities. You know that man is a microcosm that comprises a tiny representation of the pattern of the universe. As it is clear that the great bodies of the macrocosm possess these qualities and provide benefits for God’s creatures, then how can man, who ranks above all those bodies, be without those qualities? That is not so. Indeed, like the sun man possesses the light of knowledge and reason whereby he can illumine the world. Like the moon he receives the light of vision and revelation from the Divine and conveys it to others who have not yet arrived at the highest stage of human progress. Then how can you say that prophethood is a false notion and that all prophethoods and purported Divine laws and books are only the imposture and selfishness of certain human beings. You observe how all paths are lit up and the heights and depressions become distinct when the day dawns. In the same way perfect man is the day of spiritual light, by his advent every path becomes clearly distinguishable. He points out the right path, for he himself is the bright day of truth and righteousness. Similarly, you observe how the night accommodates the weary and how the labourers, after working hard during the day, sleep in the gracious lap of the night and rest from their labours. The night also covers up all defects and imperfections. In the same way, the perfect servants of God come to provide comfort for people and the recipients of revelation relieve all wise people of extreme effort. Through them great problems of insight are easily resolved. Also Divine revelation covers up the defects of human reason and, like the night, does not let its faults to become known, in as much as wise people correct their mistakes on their own in the light of revelation, and thus through the blessings of God’s holy revelation save themselves from being exposed. That is the reason why no Muslim philosopher offered the sacrifice of a rooster to an idol as was done by Plato. Plato was misled as he was deprived of the light of revelation and despite being a great philosopher he perpetrated such a stupid and hateful act.
The following of our lord and master the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, safeguarded the Muslim philosophers against such stupid and unholy practices. This shows how Divine revelation covers up, like the night, the deficiencies of the wise.
You are also aware that the perfect servants of God provide, like heaven, shelter for every weary one. His prophets and the recipients of His revelation pour down the rain of their beneficence like the sky, and they also possess the qualities of the earth. Diverse types of trees of high knowledge spring forth from their fine souls, from the shade and flowers and fruits of which people derive benefit. Thus, this visible law of nature which is displayed before our eyes is a witness of the hidden law whose testimony God Almighty has cited in these verses by way of oaths. Reflect, therefore, how full of wisdom is the word that is found in the Holy Quran and which issued from the mouth of an unlettered dweller of the desert. Had it not been the Word of God, the wise ones and those who are called highly educated, being confronted with this fine insight, would not have made it the subject of criticism. It is a common experience that when a person is unable to appreciate something on the basis of his finite reason he criticises that which is based on wisdom and his criticism becomes proof that that point of wisdom is above and beyond the reach of average minds. That is why those who are accounted wise raised an objection against this phenomenon; but now that the mystery has been resolved no reasonable person will criticise it but will derive pleasure from it.
The Holy Quran has, at another place, recited such an oath for the purpose of citing an instance of the law of nature in support of the phenomenon of revelation, and has said:
We call to witness the heaven that sends down and the earth that-sprouts diverse types of vegetation with the help of such rain, that the Quran is God’s word and His revelation, and that it decides between truth and falsehood and is not vain talk, that is to say, it has not been revealed out of time and has come like seasonable rain. (86:12-15)
Here God Almighty has set forth a well known law of nature in support of the truth of the Holy Quran, which is His Word. It is a matter of common observation that at a time of need rain comes down from heaven and that the vegetation of the earth all depends upon rain. When rain is held back then gradually the wells also run dry, so that the water in the earth also depends upon rain from heaven. That is who in the rainy season the level of the water in the wells also rises, the reason for which is that heavenly water exercises a pull upon earthly water. The same is the relationship between divine revelation and human reason. Divine revelation is heavenly water and reason is earthly water which receives sustenance from heavenly water. When heavenly water, that is to say divine revelation, is held back, the earthly water also dries up gradually. That is the reason why, when a long time passes and no recipient of revelation appears on the earth, the reason of the wise is corrupted, as earthly water is corrupted and dries up. To appreciate this phenomenon it would be enough to cast a glance at the condition of the world immediately before the advent Or the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him.
As six hundred years had passed after the time of Jesus, and no recipient of revelation had appeared during the interval. The whole world had been corrupted. The history of every country shows that before the advent of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings.
FIFTH QUESTION Sources of Divine Knowledge
The Comprehensiveness with which the Holy Quran has dealt with this subject cannot be set forth at this stage for want of time. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a concise statement by way of illustration.
The Holy Quran has drawn attention to three types of knowledge, knowledge by way of certainty of inference, knowledge by way of certainty of sight, and knowledge by way of certainty of experience. As we have already explained knowledge by certainty of inference is that a thing should be known not directly but through something through which it can be inferred, as by observing smoke we infer the existence of fire. We do not see the fire, but see the smoke and because of it we believe in the existence of the fire. Then if we see the fire, this, according to the Holy Quran, would be certainty by sight. If we were to enter into the fire, our knowledge would have the quality of certainty by experience. We have set out all this already and we refer our listeners and readers to that exposition.
It should be known that the source of the first type of knowledge, that is to say knowledge by the certainty of inference, is reason and information. God Almighty sets out in the Holy Quran that the dwellers of hell will affirm: that is to say,
they will affirm that if they had exercised their reason and had approached the consideration of religion and doctrine sensibly, or had listened to and read with attention the speeches and writings of the wise and the scholars, they would not have been condemned to hell. (67:11)
This is in accord with another verse where it is said: that is to say,
God Almighty does not require human beings to accept anything that is beyond their intellectual capacity, and only sets forth such doctrines as are comprehensible by men, so that His directives should not impose upon man that which he is not able to bear. (2:287)
These verses also indicate that one can obtain the certainty of knowledge by inference through one's ears also. For instance, we have not visited London and have only heard of it from those who have visited it, but then can we imagine that all of them might have told a lie? Or, we did not live in the time of Emperor Alamgir, nor did we see him, but can we have any doubt that Alamgir was one of the Moghul emperors? How did we arrive at that certainty? The answer is, through the continuity of hearing about him. Thus, there is no doubt that hearing also carries one's knowledge to the stage of certainty by inference. The books of the Prophets are also a source of knowledge through hearing, provided there should be no contradiction in the account that is heard. But if a book claims to be revealed and there are fifty or sixty versions of it, some of which contradict others, then even if a party might have held that only two, or three, or four of them were accurate and that the rest were spurious or fabricated, this would be no kind of proof which could be made the basis of any sure knowledge. All those books would be rejected as unreliable on account of their contradiction and could not be held to be a source of knowledge; for knowledge is only that which bestows a sure understanding, and a collection of contradictions can bestow no certain understanding.
The Holy Quran is not confined merely to knowledge gained through continuity of hearing, it contains well reasoned arguments which carry conviction. Not one of the doctrines and principles and commandments that it sets forth is sought to be imposed merely by authority; as it has explained, they are all inscribed in man's nature. It is called a Reminder as is said: meaning that
the Blessed Quran does not set forth anything that is new but is a reminder of that which already exists in man's nature and in the book of nature. (21 :51)
At another place it is said: meaning that
Islam does not try to inculcate anything by compulsion, but sets forth reasons in support of everything. (2:257)
The Quran possesses a spiritual quality that enlightens the hearts, as it says:
It is a healing for that which afflicts the minds. (10:58)
Thus it is not merely a book that has been transmitted through generations, but comprises reasoned arguments of a high degree and is charged with shining light.
Thus intellectual arguments which have a sound basis undoubtedly lead a person to the certainty of knowledge by inference. This is indicated in the following verses:
When wise and sensible persons reflect on the structure of the earth and the heavenly bodies and ponder over the alternation of the day and the night, they discover therein reasons in support of the existence of God. Thereupon they seek divine help for greater enlightenment and they remember God standing, and sitting, and lying on their sides, whereby their intellects are sharpened and their pondering over the structure of the earth and heavenly bodies impels them to affirm that this firm and orderly system could not have been created in vain but is a manifestation of divine attributes. Thus, confessing the Godhead of the Creator of the universe, they supplicate: Lord Thou art Holy above being denied and being attributed imperfect qualities. Safeguard us, therefore, against the fire of hell; meaning that a denial of God is very hell itself and that all comfort and delight proceed from Him and from His recognition. He who is deprived of the recognition of God abides in hell in this very life. (3:191-192)
The Nature of human Conscience
Human conscience is also a source of knowledge which has been named human nature in the Book of God, as is said:
Follow the nature designed by God, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. (30:31)
What is the impress of that nature ? It is to believe in God as.
Meaning of Revelation
It should be kept well in mind that revelation does not mean that an idea should arise in the mind of a person who sets himself to ponder over a thing as, for instance, a poet having thought out half a verse seeks the other half in his mind and his mind suggests the other half. This is not revelation but is the result of reflection, in accordance with the law of nature. When a person reflects upon something good or bad, a corresponding idea arises in his mind. For instance, one person who is pious and truthful composes verses in support of truth, and another one, who is wicked and vicious, supports falsehood in his verses and abuses the righteous. Both these would, no doubt, write a certain number of verses, and it is quite possible that the verses of the one who is the enemy of the righteous and supports falsehood might be better than the verses of the other one on account of his greater practice in writing poetry. So, if the arising of an idea in the mind should be accounted as revelation, a vile poet who is the enemy of truth and of the righteous and writes in opposition to the truth and has recourse to imposture, would be called a recipient of divine revelation.
Many novels are written in excellent style and set forth altogether false but continuous well arranged tales. Then would these stories be designated as revelation ? If revelation were to mean merely an idea arising in one’s mind, a thief would also be called a recipient of revelation, for an expert thief often thinks out surprising ways of theft and robbery, and many clever plans of robbery and murder pass through his mind. Would all these unclean projects be called revelation ? Indeed not. Such is the thinking only of those who are not aware of the true God Who comforts the hearts of His servants with His converse and bestows the understanding of spiritual knowledge upon those who are not familiar with it.
What then is revelation? It is the living and powerful converse of the Holy and Mighty God with a chosen servant of His, or with one whom He designs to make His elect. When this converse starts in an adequate and satisfactory manner, being altogether free from the darkness of false concepts, and is not composed merely of a few inadequate and meaningless words, and is full of delight and wisdom and grandeur, then it surely is the word of God with which He designs to comfort His servant and to manifest Himself to him. Sometimes revelation is vouchsafed to a person by way of trial and is not equipped with full blessings. In such a case the recipient is put on his trial at this elementary stage so that having tasted somewhat of revelation he should order his life along the lines of those who are true recipients of revelation, in default of which he would encounter frustration. If he does not adopt the ways of the truly righteous he is deprived of the fullness of this bounty and is left only with vain boasting.
Millions of the virtuous have been recipients of revelation, but they were not of equal standing in the estimation of God. Indeed, even the holy Prophets of God, who are recipients of divine revelation at the highest level, are not equal in rank, as God Almighty has said:
Of these Messengers some have We exalted above others. (2:254)
This shows that revelation is pure divine grace and is not evidence of exaltation. Exaltation is according to the degree of truth, sincerity, and faithfulness of the recipient, which is known only to God. If revelation possesses all its blessed conditions it is also one of the fruits of such qualities. There is no doubt that if revelation takes the form that the recipient submits a question and God responds to it, and there is a sequence between question and answer, and the revelation is Characterised by divine majesty and light, and comprehends knowledge of the unseen and true understanding, it is truly the word of God. It is necessary that divine revelation should be like a dialogue between two friends. When the servant submits a question he should receive a delicious and eloquent response from God Almighty in which his own self and thinking and reflection should have no part. If such a dialogue is bestowed as a bounty upon a person, it is the word of God and its recipient is held dear by God. That revelation should be bestowed as a bounty, and a living and holy series of revelations should be bestowed upon a servant by God dearly and in a pure form, is not the portion of anyone except of those who attain a high level of faith and sincerity and righteous action and of that which we cannot here disclose. True and holy revelation displays many wonders of the Godhead. Very often a brilliant fight is generated and along with it a majestic and shining revelation is vouchsafed. What could be a greater bounty than this that a recipient of revelation should hold converse with the Being Who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. God can be seen in this world only through converse with Him.
This does not include the condition of a person from whose tongue all idle word, or sentence or verse proceeds unaccompanied by any dialogue. Such a person is under trial by God, for God sometimes tries a slothful and neglectful servant of His in this manner that a sentence or a statement issues from his heart or tongue and he becomes a blind person not knowing whence the statement has proceeded, whether from God or from Satan. Such a one should implore istighfar in respect of such an experience. But if a righteous and virtuous servant of God should experience unobstructed dialogue with the Divine and should hear heights and delicious, and meaningful, and wise, and majestic divine utterances in a state of complete wakefulness in the shape of question and answer at least ten times, that is to say he put a question and God replied to it and then in complete wakefulness he made another submission and God made answer to it, and he made another humble supplication and God replied to that. This should have happened ten times. If in the course of Such dialogue God should accept his prayers and should instruct him he excellent insights and should inform him of coining events and should honour him repeatedly with His clear dialogue, such a one should be deeply grateful to God Almighty and should be more devoted to Him than anyone else, because God of His pure grace, has chosen him from among His servants and has made him the heir of those faithful ones who have passed on before him. This bounty is most rare and is the highest good luck. For him on whom it is bestowed everything else is utterly without value.
A characteristic of Islam
Islam has always produced persons of this rank. It is Islam alone in which God approaches a servant and holds converse with him and speaks inside him. He builds His throne in the heart of such a one and pulls him from inside towards heaven. He bestows upon him all the bounties that were bestowed on those before him. It is a pity that the blind world does not realise how far a person can reach in nearness to God. They do not step forward themselves, and if another one does so, he is either declared a disbeliever or he is deified and is put in the place of God. Both these are great wrongs which proceed from one extreme or the other. A wise one should not lack high resolve and should not persist in the denial of such an exalted rank being conferred on anyone, and should neither denigrate such a one nor deify him. When a person attains such high rank God Almighty manifests such relationship with him as if He covers him up with the mantle of His Godhead and such a one becomes a mirror for beholding God. That is why the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, said: He who has seen me has seen God. This is the last stage in the spiritual progress of man in which he is bestowed full satisfaction.
The Speaker is Honoured with Divine Converse
I would be guilty of doing great wrong to my fellow beings if I were not to declare at this stage that divine bounty has bestowed upon me the status which I have just defined and has honoured me with the kind of converse the features of which I have just set out in detail, so that I should bestow sight upon the blind and should guide the seekers of the One Who has been so far lost, and should give to those who accept the truth the good news of that holy fountain of which many speak but which few find. I wish to assure the listeners that the God, meeting with Whom is the salvation and eternal welfare of man, cannot be found without following the Holy Quran. Would that the people were to see that which I have seen, and were to hear that which I have heard? And should lay aside mere tales and should run to the truth. The cleansing water which removes all doubt, that mirror through which that Supreme Being can be seen, is converse with the Divine that I have just mentioned. Let him whose soul seeks the truth arise and search. I tell you truly that if souls are charged with true seeking and hearts develop true thirst, people would search for that way and would seek that path. How can that way be discovered, and how can the intervening veil be removed ? I assure all seekers that it is Islam alone which conveys the good news of that path. All other people have since long sealed up divine revelation. Be sure, however, that this seal is not imposed by God, but is an excuse that is put forward by man on account of his privation. Be sure that as it is not possible that we should be able to see without eyes, or should be able to hear without ears, or should be able to speak without a tongue, in the same way it is not possible that without the help of the Quran we should be able to behold the countenance of the True Beloved. I was young and am now old but I have not encountered anyone who has quaffed the cup of this visible understanding except out of this holy fountain.
The Source of Perfect Knowledge is Divine Revelation
Dear ones, no one can fight God’s designs. Be sure that the source of perfect knowledge is divine revelation which is bestowed on the holy prophets of God. Therefore God, Who is the ocean of grace, did not design that divine revelation should be sealed up for the future and the world should thus be destroyed. The doors of His revelation and converse are always open. If you seek them along their proper ways you will find them easily. The water of life has come down from heaven and has stopped at its proper place. What must you do, so that you might drink of it ? You should, by some means or the other, arrive at that fountain and should put your mouth to it so that you might be filled with the water of life. The entire good fortune of a person consists in this that he should run in the direction in which he perceives that light, and should adopt the way in which he discovers a sign of the Friend Who has been lost. You have observed that light always descends from heaven and falls upon the earth. In the same way the true light of guidance also descends from heaven. Man’s own devices and his own conjectures cannot bestow true understanding upon him. Can you behold God without His manifestation ? Can you see in the dark without the help of heavenly light; if you can you may perhaps see in this case also. But our eyes, though in perfect condition, depend on heavenly light; and our ears, though they can hear perfectly, depend upon the air which circulates under divine direction. That god is not true who is silent and leaves everything to our conjectures. The Perfect and Living God is He Who manifests Himself on His own. At this time also He has designed to disclose His own Being. The windows of heaven are about to open, the day is about to dawn. Blessed are those who should rise up and seek the True God, the One Who is not overtaken by any calamity, the brilliance of Whose Glory is never dimmed. It is said in the Holy Quran: meaning that
all the light of the heavens and the earth proceeds from God and lights up everything. He is the Sun that bestows light upon the sun, and He is the life of all the animates in the earth. He is the True Living God. Blessed are those who accept Him. (24:36)
The third source of knowledge is certainty through experience, that is to say, all the hardships and calamities and sufferings that are experienced by the Prophets and the righteous at the hands of their opponents, or that are imposed upon them by Divine decree. Through these hardships and sufferings all the commandments of the law and its directions that were comprehended by the human mind intellectually, appear in practical shape and become experience, and by being developed by practical exercise arrive at their climax, and the person concerned himself becomes a perfect code of Divine guidance. All the moral qualities like forbearance, retribution, endurance, mercy etc. which hitherto pervaded the mind and heart theoretically, become part of the personality through practical experience and make their impress upon the total personality of the sufferer, as God the Glorious has said:
We shall surely try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and lives and of the fruits of your labour, that is to say, you will suffer all this at the hands of your enemies or by virtue of Divine decry. Then give glad tidings to the steadfast, who, when a misfortune overtakes them. Do not lose heart but say: Surely to God we belong and to Him shall we return it is these on whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy, and it is these who are rightly and perfectly guided. (2:156-158)
These verses indicate that there is no virtue in the knowledge that is confined to the mind and heart. True knowledge is that which emerges from the mind and regulates and trains all the limbs, and manifests in practice all the store of memory. Thus knowledge is strengthened and fostered through its impress being imposed on all the limbs by practical experience. No type of knowledge, however elementary, arrives at its climax without practice. For instance, we have always known that baking bread is perfectly easy and involves no great art. All that is needed is that after kneading the flour and preparing the dough, we should divide it into balls of proper size and pressing each ball between our hands should spread it out and place it on a properly heated pan, and moves it about till it is heated into bread. But this is only our academic boast. When without experience we start the process of baking, our first difficulty is to prepare the dough in its proper condition so that it neither becomes too hard nor remains too soft. Even if we succeed in preparing the dough after much effort and weariness, the bread that we bake will be part burnt and part unbaked with lumps all over of irregular shape, despite our observation of the process of baking over a period of half a century. Thus relying upon our bare knowledge which we have never practised, we would suffer a loss of a quantity of flour. If such is the case of our academic knowledge in elementary matters, then how can we rely solely on our knowledge without any practical experience in matters of great import? Thus God Almighty teaches us in these verses that the sufferings which He imposes upon us are a means of perfecting our knowledge through experience. He has then warned us:
You will surely be tried in respect of your possessions and your persons that is to say, people will plunder your wealth and will kill you; and you will surely suffer many hurtful things at the hands of Jews and Christians and of those who set up partners with God; but if you show fortitude and restrain yourselves, that indeed would be evidence of high resolve. (3.187)
The purport of all these verses is that only that knowledge is beneficial which has been tested by experience, and the knowledge that is merely academic and has not been the subject of experience is without beneficence.
As wealth is multiplied by commerce, in the same way knowledge arrives at its spiritual climax through practical experience. Thus practical experience is the principal means of perfecting knowledge and bestows a light upon knowledge. The ultimate certainty of knowledge is achieved through experience of every part of it. That is what happened in Islam. God Almighty provided the Muslims with the opportunity to illustrate Whatever they were taught in the Quran in their practice and thus to become filled with its light.
Two phases of the Life of the Holy Prophet
That is why God Almighty divided the life of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, into two phases; one phase of hardship and calamities and sufferings, and the other of victory; so that during the phase of sufferings those high moral qualities might be demonstrated which come into play at such times, and during the phase of victory and authority those high moral qualities might be illustrated which cannot be displayed in the absence of authority. Thus both these types of qualities were perfectly illustrated in the life of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, by his passing through both these phases and conditions. During the period of trials in Mecca, which extended over thirteen years, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, demonstrated in practice all the high qualities which a perfectly righteous person should exhibit at such a time, such as trust in God, perfect serenity under sufferings, steady and eager carrying out of duties and fearless courage. Observing his steadfastness many of the disbelievers believed in him and thus testified that it is only one who has complete trust in God who can display such steadfastness and endurance of suffering.
During the second phase, that is to say the phase of victory, authority and prosperity, he demonstrated such high qualities as forbearance, forgiveness, benevolence and courage, so that a large number of the disbelievers believed in him through witnessing his exercise of those high qualities. He forgave those who had persecuted him, granted security to those who had expelled him from Mecca, bestowed great wealth upon those among them who were in need and having obtained authority over his bitter enemies, forgave them all. Witnessing his high morals many of them testified that such qualities could only be demonstrated by one who comes from God and is truly righteous. That is how all the rancour that his enemies had entertained against him over a long period was washed out of their hearts in an instant. His greatest quality was the one that is set out in the Holy Quran in the following words:
Tell them: My worship and my sacrifices and my living and my dying are all wholly for God. (6.163)
This means that the whole purpose of his life was to demonstrate the glory of God and to provide comfort for His creatures so that through his constant suffering of death they might procure life. No one should be misled by the mention of his death in the cause of God and for the good of His creatures, into thinking that he had at any time (God save us) contemplated destroying himself, imagining like the ignorant and the insane, that his suicide would be of benefit to others. He was entirely free from any such stupid line of thinking and was wholly opposed to it. The Holy Quran esteems anyone who is guilty of self destruction as a great offender, liable to severe chastisement, as it says: that is to say,
do not commit suicide and do not become the cause of your own destruction. ( 2:196)
It is obvious that if X suffers from pain in the stomach, it would be futile for Y to break his own head out of pity for X. That would be no virtuous deed but only needless suffering through stupidity. In the circumstances it would have been virtuous on the part of Y to minister to X in an appropriate and useful manner, for instance, by procuring medical advice and the required medicines for him. His breaking his own head would do no good to X. It would be the infliction of needless suffering upon a noble part of his own body. In short the true meaning of the verse cited above is, that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, out of true sympathy, had devoted his life to labour for the welfare of mankind and through supplications and exhortations and enduring their persecution and by every proper and wise means had laid down his life and sacrificed his comfort in this cause; as God the Glorious has said:
Happily thou will risk death grieving that they do not believe. (26:4)
Let not thy soul waste itself in sighing after them. (35:9)
Thus the wise way of laying down one’s life in the service of one s people is to endure hardship in their service in accord with the beneficial law of nature, and to spend one’s life working out appropriate projects to that end, and not to strike one’s head with a stone because of the perilous situation of one’s people resulting from their errors or afflictions, or to depart this life after swallowing two or three grains of strychnine imagining that through this absurd device one would open the way of salvation for one’s people. This is not a manly method, but is a feminine tendency. It has always been the way of faint-hearted people that finding themselves unable to endure hardship they run towards suicide. Whatever explanation may be offered in respect of it there can be no doubt that such action is sheer folly.
Again, it is obvious that the endurance of hardship and nonresistance to an enemy on the part of a person who never had the opportunity to take revenge, cannot be accounted a moral quality. For it is not known how would he have behaved if he had had an opportunity of taking revenge. Unless a person passes through hardships and then achieves authority and prosperity his true qualities cannot be manifested. It is obvious that a person whose whole life is spent in a state of weakness, indigence, and helplessness, enduring persecution all the time, and who is never in a position of authority and power and prosperity, cannot be adjudged as possessing high moral qualities. If he has had no opportunity of taking part in a battle it cannot be determined whether he is brave or a coward. We cannot make any estimate of his character as we do not know how would he have treated his enemies, if he had overcome them, or how would he have spent his wealth if he had become prosperous. Would he have hoarded it or would he have distributed it among the people; and if he had been present in the field of battle would he have run away or would he have behaved as a brave fighter? In the case of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, Divine favour and grace afforded him full opportunity for the manifestation of his moral qualities. He displayed generosity, bravery, meekness, forbearance and equity on their appropriate occasions to such perfection that it would be a vain effort to look for their match in any other person. In both phases of his life, in Weakness and power, indigence and prosperity he demonstrated to the whole world to what high degree he Comprehended all the moral qualities. There is no high moral quality for the exercise of which God Almighty did not afford him an opportunity. All excellent moral qualities like bravery, generosity, steadfastness, forbearance meekness, etc., Were in his case so clearly established that it is not possible to seek his equal. It is also true that those who had carried their persecution of him to the extreme and had designed the destruction of Islam, were not left unpunished by God. To forego chastisement in their case would have amounted to the destruction of the righteous under the heels of their enemies.
The Purpose of The Wars of The Holy Prophet
The purpose of the wars of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. Was not to cause needless bloodshed. The Muslims had been expelled from their ancestral homes, many innocent Muslim men and women had been martyred, and still the wrongdoers were not prepared to restrain themselves, and continuously obstructed the progress of Islam. In these circumstances the Divine law of security demanded the safeguarding of the persecuted ones against total destruction. Therefore, those who had drawn the sword were opposed with the sword. Thus those wars were directed towards rooting out the mischief of those who were bent upon murder and were aimed at repelling evil. They took place at a time when the wrongdoers were bent on the ruin of the righteous. In these circumstances, if Islam had not had recourse to measures of self defence, thousands of innocent women and children would have been slaughtered and an end would have been put to Islam.
It is a great error on the part of our opponents that they imagine that revealed guidance must under no circumstances inculcate resistance to the enemy and should always demonstrate its love and mercy by way of meekness and gentleness. Such people imagine that they display great reverence for God, the Lord of Honour and Glory, by attributing to Him only the qualities of gentleness and tenderness. But those who are given to reflection and pondering can easily perceive that such people are involved in gross and obvious error. A contemplation of the Divine law of nature clearly shows that it certainly is pure mercy. But that mercy does not manifest itself by way of gentleness and tenderness in all circumstances.
Out of pure mercy. Like an expert physician, it sometimes administers a sweet draught to us and at other times it prescribes a bitter medicine for us. Divine mercy deals with us as each of us deals mercifully with his body. There can be no doubt that each of us loves his whole body and if anyone wishes to pull out a single hair of ours we are much annoyed with him. Yet despite the fact that the love that we bear towards our body is distributed over the whole of it, and all our limbs are dear to us, and we do not desire the loss or hurt any of them. It is clear that our love for every one of our limbs is not of the same degree and quality. In fact, the love of our principal limbs upon which largely depends the carrying out of our purposes, prevails over our hearts. Similarly in our estimation the totality of our limbs is far greater than our love for any particular limb. Thus when we are confronted with a situation in which the security of a superior limb depends upon wounding or cutting or breaking all inferior limb, we reconcile ourselves to such an operation. We are grieved at the wounding or cutting of a limb that is dear to us, but through the apprehension lest the disorder of the inferior limb should operate to destroy a superior limb, we are reluctantly reconciled to its cutting. This illustration should help us to realise that when God observes that His righteous Servants are in peril of being destroyed at the hands of the worshippers of falsehood and that this would lead to great disorder He manifests His appropriate design, whether from heaven or from earth, for the safeguarding of the righteous and for the putting down of disorder; for as He is Merciful, He is also Wise.
All praise belongs to God the Lord of the Universe.