Faith and Beliefs
إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى نُوْحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيْمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيْلَ وَإْسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوْبَ وَالأَسْبَاطِ وَعِيْسَى وَأَيُّوْبَ وَيُوْنُسَ وَهَارُوْنَ وَسُلَيْمَانَ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُوْرًا وَرُسُلاً قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلاً لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ وَكَلَّمَ اللّهُ مُوْسَى تَكْلِيْمًا رُّسُلاً مُّبَشِّرِيْنَ وَمُنْذِرِيْنَ لِئَلاَّ يَكُوْنَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ وَكَانَ اللّهُ عَزِيْزًا حَكِيْمًا (4: 163-165)
We have revealed [Our messages] to you the way We revealed [them] to Noah and to the prophets who came after him; And We revealed [them] to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the progeny of Jacob, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, Solomon and We gave the Psalms to David. We have revealed [Our messages] to Messengers who we have mentioned to you earlier and to some Messengers who We have not mentioned to you and with Moses God had spoken: these Messengers who were sent as bearers of glad tidings and of admonishment so that after them people are left with no excuse which they can present before God and God is Mighty and Wise. (4:163-165)
People through which the Almighty completed providing His guidance to mankind are called prophets. They were, in fact, human beings; however, the Almighty selected them for this purpose on the basis of His all embracing knowledge and wisdom. As such, prophethood is God-given and cannot be acquired through self-effort or training. The Qur'an has narrated the incident in which Moses (sws) was given prophethood. When he reached the valley of Sanai with his family on his way back from Midian, it was night time. It was difficult to find one's way in the dark and it appears that it was quite chilly too. Meanwhile, a darting flame was seen at a distance and perhaps no one except Moses (sws) observed it. He bade his family to stay where they were and himself expressed his desire to find out more about what he had seen and possibly bring back some fire to warm themselves or that if there were people there he would inquire from them the way to the fire. When he came near the place he had sighted the flame, he heard a voice say: "Moses! I am Your Lord, so take off your shoes; you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa; I have selected you for the responsibility of prophethood and messengerhood; so listen carefully to whatever is being revealed to you." The Qur'an has told us that after this he was given the same message as was given to other prophets:
إِنَّنِيْ أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِيْ وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِيْ إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ ءاَتِيَةٌ أَكَادُ أُخْفِيْهَا لِتُجْزَى كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا تَسْعَى فَلاَ يَصُدَّنَّكَ عَنْهَا مَنْ لاََّ يُؤْمِنُ بِهَا وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ فَتَرْدَى (20: 14-16)
I am God. Indeed, there is no god but Me. Serve Me, and for My remembrance, pray with vigilance. The Hour is sure to come – but I will keep it hidden – [it shall come] so that every soul is rewarded for its labours. Thus every person who does not believe in it and yields to his desires should not turn you away from the prayer, lest you perish. (20:14-16)
It is Moses' (sws) distinction that God spoke to him. The incident of the first revelation to Muhammad (sws) has been mentioned in the Qur'an in Surah Najm. It is evident from it that the position of prophethood was given to him through Gabriel, the exalted angel of God. The Qur'an says that on this occasion he appeared in his actual form on the higher horizon and the Prophet (sws) saw him with his naked eyes. He then came near him to instruct him and just as an affectionate teacher bends over his dearly loved student, he bent over him with great love and affection and came so close to him that he was within two bows' length or even closer. Then he revealed to the Prophet (sws) whatever he had been directed to reveal:
عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيْدُ الْقُوَى ذُوْ مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَى وَهُوَ بِالْأُفُقِ الْأَعْلَى ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى فَأَوْحَى إِلَى عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَى (53: 5-10)
He was taught by an Angel, mighty in power, towering in character, endued with wisdom – while he stood poised, being on the higher horizon. Then he drew near and came down within two bows' length or even closer. The Almighty then revealed to His servant that which He revealed.(53:5-10)
These prophets are sent to every community. God had promised Adam (sws) that He would guide his progeny through guidance revealed by Him. This guidance was given to mankind through these very prophets. After receiving revelations from God, they tell what is the truth to people, give glad tidings to those who believe in Him and warn those who do not believe in Him of a dreadful fate. Consequently, at one place, while addressing the Prophet (sws), the Qur'an says:
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ بِالْحَقِّ بَشِيْرًا وَنَذِيْرًا وَإِنْ مِّنْ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خلَا فِيْهَا نَذِيْرٌ (24:35)
We have sent you with the truth as a bearer of glad tidings and warnings and there is no community in which a warner never came. (35:24)
The details regarding these prophets which have been mentioned in the Qur'an and which should be kept in consideration by everyone for professing faith in them are discussed in the following paragraphs.
The Essence of Prophethood
Prophethood is the selection of an individual for the purpose of communication with the Almighty. The Qur'an (28:29-30) has informed man that he has been blessed with this honour in two ways.
Firstly, communication from behind a veil. In this case, a person hears a voice but does not see who is conversing with him. God spoke to Moses (sws) in this way. He started to hear a voice from a tree in the valley of the mount Sinai but there was no one he could see.
Secondly, through wahi. This word is used for revealing something in the heart of someone. This again has two forms: firstly, God directly reveals His message to the heart of a prophet; secondly, He sends an angel and this angel reveals something to the heart of a prophet on behalf of the Almighty. This phenomenon can occur both when a prophet is awake and in a vision while he is asleep. In case of a vision, whatever is communicated is at times in symbolic form. The way revelations would come to Muhammad (sws) is described in various Hadith narratives. It is evident from them that in its most intense form, the sound of a ringing bell would precede the process of revelation. Such was the intensity of the whole process that he would be drenched with sweat even in the coldest of weather. The Qur'an has specified that apart from this observation the nature of wahi is beyond the comprehension of man:
وَيَسْأَلُوْنَكَ عَنِ الرُّوْحِ قُلِ الرُّوْحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّيْ وَمَآ أُوتِيْتُمْ مِّنِ الْعِلْمِ إِلاَّ قَلِيْلاً (85:17)
And they ask you about al-ruh [– ie the wahi –]. Tell them: "this ruh is from among my Lord's command. Little indeed is the knowledge given to you." (17:85)
Since revelations come to the prophets without any desire of their own and from the divine part of their soul, they are absolutely sure about their authenticity. However, at various occasions, for their own satisfaction the Almighty shows them extra-ordinary sights and experiences. An example of this is the Prophet's journey from the Baytullah to the Aqsa mosque that occurred in a vision shown to him. Such an experience also occurs in real life. Following is an example of such an experience:
وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَى عِندَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَى عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَى إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَى مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَى لَقَدْ رَأَى مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَى (53: 13-18)
And he beheld him once again at the sidrah tree, beyond which no one can pass near which is the Garden of Repose. At that time, the sidrah tree was covered with that which covered it. [His] sight did not wander, nor did it exceed the limit. [In such a manner] he saw some of his Lord's greatest signs. (53:13-18)
At one place in the Qur'an, all these ways of communicating with God are mentioned together:
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَنْ يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِنْ وَرَاء حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُوْلًا فَيُوْحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَآء إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيْمٌ (51:42)
And it is not the status of any mortal that God should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a veil or he sends a messenger and through His permission he sends revelation to him of what He wills. Exalted is He, and wise. (42:51)
It is evident from the words of the above verse that divine revelation is not sent to a prophet in the form of an idea or thought; it is in the form of words which he hears, understands and preserves. These words and their style is however something which a prophet is already familiar with so that they are not incomprehensible and alien to him. It is for this very reason that both the words and meanings of a revelation are specific to a prophet depending upon his circumstances and abilities.
Need for a Prophet
Just as a person has been given the ability to infer through parables and induction, to make a whole through components and then explain the components through the whole, to assimilate ideologies through what is obvious and to draw analogies from what can be felt through the senses for what cannot be felt, he has also be given the ability to distinguish between good and evil and to make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong and in fact he even has a comprehension of his Lord and his justice. We have already alluded to these abilities of man earlier. Thus a prophet is not needed to inform people of these things. All these are ingrained in his nature and innately found in him. The Qur'anic verse which has been earlier referred to (4:163-165) shows that the need for a prophet did not arise to inform man of these things; it arose because of two other reasons.
Firstly, for completion of guidance. This means that man be reminded of whatever is ingrained in his nature in concise form and of whatever he has known eternally and all its details be specified for him. In certain verses, the Qur'an has regarded this to be a completion of divine favour:
وَجَعَلْنَاهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُوْنَ بِأَمْرِنَا وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِمْ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَإِقَامَ الصَّلَاةِ وَإِيْتَآء الزَّكَاةِ وَكَانُوْا لَنَا عَابِدِيْنَ (73:21)
And We made these [prophets] leaders to give guidance at Our behest, and revealed to them to do pious deeds, show diligence in the prayer and give zakah. And they served none but Ourself. (21:73)
Secondly, for itmam al-hujjah. This means to awaken man from his slumber of unawareness and after providing the testimony of his intellect and knowledge provide another testimony through these prophets to such an extent that no one is left with any excuse to deny the truth:
يَا مَعْشَرَ الْجِنِّ وَالإِنْسِ أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ رُسُلٌ مِّنكُمْ يَقُصُّوْنَ عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِيْ وَيُنْذِرُوْنَكُمْ لِقَاء يَوْمِكُمْ هَـذَا قَالُواْ شَهِدْنَا عَلَى أَنْفُسِنَا وَغَرَّتْهُمُ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا وَشَهِدُواْ عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُواْ كَافِرِيْنَ ذَلِكَ أَن لَّمْ يَكُنْ رَّبُّكَ مُهْلِكَ الْقُرَى بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا غَافِلُوْنَ (6: 130-131)
"O Jinn and men! Did there not come to you prophets from among you who proclaimed to you My revelations and warned you of [your] meeting with this day?" They will reply: "We bear witness against our own souls" – And indeed, the life of this world deceived them and they testified against themselves that they were disbelievers – this was because your Lord does not destroy cities because of their oppression if their inhabitants are not aware of the truth. (6:130-131)
Identifying a Prophet (sws)
The highest of human traits are personified in a prophet and his message is based on what is known and familiar to human nature. The fountainhead of all virtues is two things: remembering the Almighty and showing sympathy to the poor. A prophet is an embodiment of these virtues and urges others as well to adopt them. Whatever he says to people conforms to the highest intellectual standard and what he says relates only to those things about which man can become indifferent or forgetful. Moreover, his prophethood is not something which can be acquired through self-effort. Hence, every right-minded person has no difficulty in recognizing him. If a person has a discerning mind and a vibrant heart, then the very person of a prophet is a miracle:
قُلْ لَّوْ شَاءَ اللّهُ مَا تَلَوْتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلاَ أَدْرَاكُمْ بِهِ فَقَدْ لَبِثْتُ فِيْكُمْ عُمُرًا مِّنْ قَبْلِهِ أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُوْنَ (16:10)
Tell them: "Had God pleased, I would never have recited this Qur'an to you, nor would He have made you aware of it. [It is His decision] because I have spent a life-time among you. Do you not use your senses?" 10:16)
However, besides this, the Almighty blesses a prophet with potent signs which though may not induce his adversaries to openly acknowledge him but are enough to leave them with no excuse to deny his veracity. For this very reason, at one place, the Qur'an (4:159) has declared that every one from among the People of the Book of the times of Muhammad (sws) before his own death would profess faith in him. It is evident from the Qur'an that these signs are given to every prophet and their nature depends upon his times and circumstances. We shall mention a few of these in the following paragraphs.
1. A prophet generally comes in accordance with the prediction of the prophet who precedes him and comes as fulfillment of this prediction. Viewed thus, he is not an un-introduced personality. People are familiar with him and also await him. It is known from the Qur'an (3:39) that the prophet John (sws) foretold the coming of Jesus (sws) all over Jerusalem. It is evident from the Qur'an (7:157) that the predictions of the advent of Muhammad (sws) are mentioned both in the Old and the New Testaments. One of the primary objectives of the advent of Jesus (sws), according to the Qur'an (61:9), was to prophesy about the coming of an unlettered prophet in Arabia. The Qur'an (6:20) has presented the fact that the scholars of the Israelites recognize Muhammad (sws) the way an estranged father recognizes his son as a conclusive proof of its own authenticity. This means that they also fully recognized Muhammad (sws):
وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍوَإِنَّهُ لَفِيْ زُبُرِ الْأَوَّلِيْنَ أَوَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَّهُمْ آيَةً أَن يَعْلَمَهُ عُلَمَاء بَنِيْ إِسْرَائِيْلَ (26: 192-197)
And this has been revealed by the Lord of the Universe with great care and attention. The faithful Spirit has brought it down into your heart so that you may become a warner to people in eloquent Arabic speech. It is also mentioned in the early scriptures. Is not this a sufficient proof for them that the scholars of the Israelites know him? (26:196-197)
2. Whatever a prophet presents as the word and message of God is without any contradiction and inconsistency. Even the most ultimate of geniuses of this world like Socrates and Aristotle, Kant and Einstein, Ghalib and Iqbal, Razi and Zamakhshari cannot make such a claim about the works they have produced. However, the Qur'an has vehemently asserted about itself that there is not a semblance of contradiction in the philosophy and ideology it presents and there is not the slightest evolution or development in its style that a person can detect:
أَفَلاَ يَتَدَبَّرُوْنَ الْقُرْآنَ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ غَيْرِ اللّهِ لَوَجَدُواْ فِيْهِ اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيْرًا (82:4)
Do they not ponder on the Qur'an and [not see that] if it had not come from God, they would have found many contradictions in it. (4:82)
Imam Amin Ahsan Islahiwrites:
… So sound and well-knitted is every idea of the Qur'an, both in its principle and in the corollaries of these principles that even the formulae of Arithmetic and Geometry are not as sound and well-knitted. So connected and linked are the beliefs it teaches that if any one of these beliefs is removed the whole chain and sequence falls apart. The rituals of worship and other directives it gives spring from beliefs just as branches spring from a stem. The deeds and morals it instructs its followers to obey emanate from their principles in a manner natural and obvious consequences emanate from something. The system of life which comes into existence as a result of its overall teaching is like that of a lead-cemented wall in which each and every brick is attached to the other in a manner that it cannot be separated from the other except if a gap is created in the whole structure.
3. A prophet is blessed with miracles from God. The Qur'an has specified that one of the reasons for which extra-ordinary miracles were given to Jesus (sws) and Moses (sws) was to authenticate them as messengers of God. Consequently, after mentioning the staff of Moses (sws) and his white hand, the Qur'an says:
فَذَانِكَ بُرْهَانَانِ مِن رَّبِّكَ إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَمَلَئِهِ إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا قَوْمًا فَاسِقِينَ (32:28)
These are two clear signs from your Lord for the Pharaoh and his leaders [of his people]. Surely, they are disobedient people. (28:32)
No one can reject these miracles by pronouncing them as magic or trickery. The reason for this is that the reality behind such things is very much known to those adept in such disciplines and they too are compelled to acknowledge such miracles. In order to eliminate the influence of the miracles of Moses (sws) referred to above, the Pharaoh had adopted this very test. The Qur'an says that he sent for all the top-notch magicians of his country, but when these magicians saw the staff of Moses (sws) consuming their spells they prostrated before him at once and declared their faith in the Lord of Moses (sws) and Aaron (sws). Since such faith is only produced when someone witnesses a reality through his very eyes, hence such was its strength that when the Pharaoh threatened to haphazardly cut their hands and feet and to crucify them on the trunks of palm-trees, these magicians, who a very short while ago were imploring for reward (the Qur'an, 7:113) from him, declared vehemently that after witnessing such a phenomenon they did not even care for their lives:
قَالُوا لَن نُّؤْثِرَكَ عَلَى مَا جَاءنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالَّذِي فَطَرَنَا فَاقْضِ مَا أَنتَ قَاضٍ إِنَّمَا تَقْضِي هَذِهِ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا إِنَّا آمَنَّا بِرَبِّنَا لِيَغْفِرَ لَنَا خَطَايَانَا وَمَا أَكْرَهْتَنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنَ السِّحْرِ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى (20: 72-73)
They replied: "We shall never give preference to you over the clear signs which have come to us and over the being Who created us. Do what you want. At best, you can only decide the fate of this life. We have professed faith in our Lord so that He forgives our sins and forgoes this sorcery you have forced us to adopt and [in reality] God only is good and He only will remain forever." (20:72-73)
The miracle given to the Prophet (sws) to validate his prophethood is the Qur'an. When those who are aware of the stylistic features of Arabic language and of its literary tradition and also have a literary appreciation of the language read the Qur'an, they clearly feel that this could not have been produced by human beings. Thus, at more than one instance, it has challenged its addressees who do not regard it to be of divine origin to produce just a single surah like it:
وَإِنْ كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِنْ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا شُهَدَاءَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ فَإِنْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَلَنْ تَفْعَلُوا فَاتَّقُوا النَّارَ الَّتِي وَقُودُهَا النَّاسُ وَالْحِجَارَةُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْكَافِرِينَ(20: 23-24)
And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then [go and] produce a single surah like it. And [for this purpose] also call your leaders besides Allah, if you are truthful in your claim. But if you cannot – and of a surety you cannot – then fear the Fire whose fuel is these men [who do not believe] and these stones also [whom they worship]. It has been prepared for these rejecters. (2:23-24)
4. The Almighty informs a prophet of certain unknown things which are impossible to come into the knowledge of any other human being. One example of this is the predictions made by divine revelations which were fulfilled to the utmost. Some of these predictions are mentioned in the Qur'an and some in the Hadith narratives. We have already referred to the predictions regarding the supremacy of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in Arabia, the conquest of Makkah and the people entering the folds of Islam in multitudes in the introductory part of this book under "Empirical Evidence". Another great prediction made by the Qur'an was the victory of the Romans after being defeated by the Iranians. The Qur'an says:
غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ فِي أَدْنَى الْأَرْضِ وَهُم مِّن بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ فِي بِضْعِ سِنِينَ لِلَّهِ الْأَمْرُ مِن قَبْلُ وَمِن بَعْدُ وَيَوْمَئِذٍ يَفْرَحُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ بِنَصْرِ اللَّهِ يَنصُرُ مَن يَشَاء وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّحِيمُ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (30: 2-6)
The Romans have been defeated in a nearby land. But in a few years after this defeat they shall become victorious. Whatever happened earlier happened because of God's directive and what happens later will happen because of His directive. And on that day the believers will rejoice because of God's help. He helps whomsoever He wants to and He is the Mighty and Ever-Merciful. That is God's promise and God never goes back on His promise, yet most men do not know it. (30:2-6)
When this prediction was made, then in the words of Edward Gibbon: "No prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire." However, it was fulfilled at the very time it was meant to and in March 628 AD the Roman emperor returned to Constantinople with such splendour that four elephants were pulling his chariot and numerous people stood outside the city with lanterns and branches of olive to welcome back their hero.
5. Prophets who are also designated as Messengers (rusul) are a symbol of divine justice in this world and decide the fate of their people in this very world. We have already alluded to the details of this earlier that if these Messengers abide by their covenant with God they are rewarded in this world and if they deviate from it they are punished in this world. The result is that the very existence of these Messengers becomes a sign of God and it is as if they witness God walking with these Messengers on earth and administering justice. It is this situation which becomes the basis of passing judgement by the Almighty both in this world and in that to come. Consequently, the Almighty grants supremacy to these Messengers and punish those who reject their message:
وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولٌ فَإِذَا جَاء رَسُولُهُمْ قُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ (47:10)
And for each community there is a messenger. When their messenger comes, their fate it decided with justice and they are not wronged. (10:47)
(Translated from Ghamidi's Mizan by Shehzad Saleem)